In 1979, the Douro Valley region was awarded a Denominaçao de Origem Controlada (DOC) designation for its table wines. Port was still king then, but this was the beginning of the unfortified-wine evolution. In the 30+ years since the DOC was awarded, Port's popularity has continued to decline, but the region has been revitalized thanks to these table wines. Today Douro wines (reds in particular) are heralded as some of Portugal's finest reds.
The Douro Valley is a stunningly beautiful place. Very steep, rocky hillsides of schist rise out of the Douro River, and both banks are covered with walled terraced vineyards that have been painstakingly built over hundreds of kilometres. Rainfall is sparse, but grape vines have grown and thrived here for centuries.
Types of grapes
Up to half the grapes grown in the valley are now made into Douro table wines. The region's DOC standard allow the use of 77 different red grapes. However, the main grapes for table wines are the same ones used in Port: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (known as Tempranillo in Spain), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão and Tinta da Barca.
These grapes range in style from light and fruity to silky and supple to dark and dense with flavours of ripe plum and blackberry. They tend to be very deep purple (due to all the heat and sunlight) and full-flavoured. Many are able to age well.
Most of the big Port houses make dry red table wines today. They offer excellent value. These well-made, intense reds are destined to become as famous as their sweet forefathers.
More red wine articles by Anne:
• What to look for in Spanish red wines
Get to know Spanish grape varietals, wine regions and labelling definitions so you can choose a great Spanish wine on a modest budget.
• Cabernet Sauvignon - The king of grapes
Why this masculine red grape is so popular, PLUS how to tell your bottle is "corked".
• Shiraz and Syrah - Demystifying this complex red grape
Whether you call it Syrah or Shiraz, this bold, complex grape produces a multitude of wonderfully drinkable red wines in styles that suit every palate.
• How to choose an investment-worthy wine
Discover the four key factors when buying an investment-worthy wine, plus buying dos and don'ts.
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