Discovering great landscapes can be one of the most thrilling experiences in a lifetime. Wrenched from our urban comfort zones, our emotions go into free fall.
The Douro Valley is one of these landscapes. The grandeur of the surroundings, the sense of peace, the amazing scented air, the gentle pace of existence, everything about the Douro will make you look for excuses to return as soon and often as you can.
Sculpting nature to make stellar wines
Imagine for a moment you are a lucky eagle – a few Royal Eagles do actually live in the Douro Valley. Beneath you a huge domain of green or brown hills extends as far as your eagle eye can see, the blue band of the River Douro winding through them.
Over the centuries these hills have been sculpted by men who have created terraced vineyards, an extraordinary feat of perseverance as the hills are often impressively steep, plunging from breathtaking viewpoints into valleys far below. When in 2001 the Douro was acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Cultural Landscape this did not come as a surprise, it is probably the most beautiful wine country in Europe.
The Portuguese wine revolution
Wine has been made in the Douro Valley since Roman times. Traditionally the best grapes were used for making Port, a wonderful fortified wine which is continuing to attract the new generations of followers it deserves. Sometime around the beginning of this century, a typically gentle Portuguese revolution began to get under way: talented Portuguese and foreign wine makers started to create remarkable table wines: Douro DOC. These bottles have been seizing the attention of wine specialists and consumers all over the world. Some of the very finest have won top Wine Spectator ratings, enough to give sleepness nights to producers at venerable Bordeaux or Burgundy wine estates.
I will be writing often about the tale of this astonishing wine producing region. In the Douro Valley, I will be meeting the talented men and women who are employing innovative viticultural and wine making methods and I will be tasting these new wines and reporting to you on my findings.