Unsplash - Lefteris Kallergis
The Douro Valley in Portugal is well known internationally as the region where Port is produced. But these days, a renaissance is in full swing. The valley is now producing terrific unfortified dry red table wines.
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.