Long famous as the source of port wine, the Douro is now also renowned for its fine, rich unfortified wines, both red and white. This is one of the wildest, most mountainous and rugged wine regions of Portugal, cut through in deep twists and turns by the River Douro. Defying gravity on the steep slopes along the banks of the river and its tributaries, the vines are planted in poor, schistous soils.
The Douro has a huge selection of local grape varieties, 56 classified and a sustantial number more allowable, and and many vineyards of impressive, gnarled old vines that give small yields of rich, complex wine, whether for port or for unfortified wines. Dozens of different grape varieties may be mixed together in these old vineyards. In modern vineyards, vines are planted separately. The Douro region is divided into three sub-regions: from west to east the Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior. The fertile, cooler, rainier Baixo Corgo, closest to the Serra do Marão, is the sub region with the most vineyards. The Cima Corgo, including the towns of Pinhão, São João da Pesqueira and Tua, is the heartland of fine port production, also the source of many of today’s fine unfortified wines. The Douro Superior, very cold in winter, infernally hot in summer, is the biggest of the sub-regions (by no means all planted but much planting is underway). Douro Superior offers the most variation in terms of altitude with river level of around 85m above sea level reaching up to around 1100m in parts.
These styles include wines that are famous for their characteristics, which is why they are known as special categories
Ruby Style: Bottled matured
Ruby Reserve Port
Full-bodied, rich and deep ruby red, these wines are frequently the product of a selection of the best Port Wine made each year, blended together to create a young, powerful, fruity and intense wine that is also rounded and versatile.
Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV)
This is a Ruby Port from a single year, chosen for its extremely high quality and bottled after ageing for four to six years in wood. Most of these Ports are ready for drinking when they are purchased, but some will continue to age in bottle (check the label). LBV Port is a deep ruby red, extremely full-bodied and rich in the mouth and it possesses the particular style and personality of a wine from a single harvest.
Considered by many as the jewel in the Port Wine crown, this is the only Port that ages in bottle. Produced from the grapes harvested during a single year and bottled two to three years after the vintage, it develops gradually for 10 to 50 years before it is drunk. The charm of Vintage resides in the fact that it is attractive at pratically all stages of its life in bottle. During the first five years, it retains the intense ruby of its original colour, exuberant aromas of red fruits and wild berries and a taste of black chocolate, all of which is balanced by strong tannins that make it the perfect accompaniement to desserts that are rich in chocolate. After ten years in bottle, in addition to its throwing a light deposit, Vintage takes on garnet tones and attains a delicious plenitude of ripe fruit aromas and flavours. As the wine matures, its colour turns a rich golden brown and its fruit acquires a greater subtlety and complexity and the deposit that it throws becomes thicker.
Port (Vintage) Single Quinta Vintage
These Vintages are unique in that they are not only the product of a single harvest but also of a single quinta, or wine estate, which makes them truly exceptional.
Tawny Style: Wood matured
Tawny Reserve Port
Aged in oak, this wine boasts extremely elegant flavours, the perfect combination of the fruitiness of youth and the maturity of age, also apparent in their attractive médium golden brown colour.
Tawny 10 years old Port
A bit more developed than Tawny Reserve, this is a very similar wine but with the added assurance that it bears the characteristics of a ten years old Port.
Tawny 20 years old Port
With colours ranging from a reddish to golden Tawny, these exceptional wines are full of fruit and their flavours are more developed and concentrated due to the fact that the wine was aged in small oak casks. The extremely intense aromas and flavours are reminiscent of toasted vanilla and dried fruits, with delicate hints of oak.
Tawny 30 years old Port
Certain Ports are set aside to age longer in wood. The gradual exposure to air concentrates and intensifies the original fruit of these wines, creating more complex characteristics where honey and spices are touched with deep aromas of dry peaches, hazelnuts and vanilla.
Tawny 40 years old Port
This classification is given to the oldest Tawny Ports, wines that are marvellously concentrated and complex. Intense, they all but explode in the mouth, filling your palate with aromatic flavours that will astound your senses.
These single vintage Tawnies are aged in cask for a minimum seven years and present a wide range of colours from golden red to tawny, depending on their age. Their bouquet and flavour also develop over time to create different style Tawnies.
Special categories of the White Port Wine
Port Wines can bear the designation ‘Reserve’ or ‘Indication of Age’ (10, 20, 30 or more than 40 years old) on the label, provided that the criteria of the Port Wine regulations are met.