We were extremely fortunate to visit the Douro wine region in Portugal, where we were told that there are two seasons. Winter, and hot as hell! We are very excited about the quality and diversity of wines coming out of this region.
The Douro wine valley is a must visit for wine lovers, and has an incredibly rich history. It is traditionally known as the region where Port wines are made, but it happens to product just as many still wines as fortified.
Similar to regions in France, our friends the Cistercian monks established monasteries in the area and carved out some incredible vineyards from the harsh climate and steep slopes. The Douro river is now dammed in various places and one can cruise up and down in placid comfort, but before that the river was more akin to the Lower Zambezi, below the Victoria Falls, with fast flowing rapids. This presented many hazards for vignerons transporting their produce to Porto (the main trading port of the region, and the home of many of the famous Port house).
We were lucky enough to have a detailed and tutored tasting of this incredible producers Ports. Have a look at the handwritten guide to Port. Everything you need to know on this cheat sheet!
We are big fans of Dirk's still wines too, and he is definitely one of the leading producers in the region, driving a new generation of winemakers who are custodians of the past, but extremely innovative and forward thinking in their approach. Tasting Port is quite an undertaking, with the higher alcohol levels, so the food pairings are fairly crucial!
We visited a few producers, but stayed at Quinta Nova. This working winery makes a beautiful range of wines, and one of our highlights from the cellar tour was the way modern methods met tradition. One of the major traditions in the Douro was the pressing of grapes, by the men, who would sing and dance and be merry, but at the same time follow a rigid pattern of dancing and stomping, to crush the juice from the grapes. Using a band of gents, who are slightly inebriated to crush grapes, wouldn't sit too well with most winemakers in terms of quality control these days! Quinta Nova have a mechanical foot stomper which replicates the gentle influence of foot pressing, without the stomper tiring or stopping for a sip of wine!
We are excited to start showcasing more of the beautiful wines of Portugal. Watch this space!