Welcome to Northern Portugal
Join us on our first visit to Portugal.
Photo: Bruno Ferreira
Wednesday 02 March 2022
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Shaped by the wide and winding Rivers Douro and Dão, the two most famous wine regions in Northern Portugal are also some of its most ancient and beautiful. The Douro, with its quintas and vineyards with steep terraces, has been described as the most underrated wine region in Europe, overlooked often because of... well, we can’t actually think why. It’s climate is perfect for the crisp, light-bodied white wines and deep, tannic red wines of the region — and it’s the oldest demarcated wine appellation in the world. The Romans in the 1st century CE knew what was up. Now a World Heritage Site, the Douro Valley is a holiday destination in its own right. Where British traders once demanded Douro grapes for their Port wines, the area now flourishes with a new wave of eco-tourism and a growing respect for the high quality wines it produces.
Granite mountain ranges protect the Dão from the worst of the Atlantic’s changeable weather patterns, creating a microclimate of long, dry summers. The wine here is unusual, often showing strong tannins and even, in white wines from the region, oxidation and skin contact. Something quite fashionable in natural wine these days, we’ll have you know. These tannins and complexities give the local wines the nickname of “Portugal’s Burgundy”, especially the red wines which, after years of focus and experimentation, have become dignified and elegant.
But we can’t chat about Northern Portugal without sipping some Port. This region’s wine growing history is steeped in the stuff, and a huge tonnage of the grapes grown in this area are pressed, fermented, dosed with grape spirit and sent to age in Portuguese or French oak barrels under the streets in Porto, to craft the fortified drink that launched a thousand trade ships. White, red and now rosé Port goes through loudly-publicised peaks and gullies of popularity, but when you’re casually sitting on a heritage of 500+ years, who needs trends? You’re number one. You’ve already made it, baby.
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