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Comprehensive description of all European growing areas, their grape varieties, traditions and legal rules with maps.

Unfortunately there is no information about Porto e Douro DOC available.
Porto e Douro DOC

Description to Porto e Douro DOC

World-famous dessert wine from Portugal, known as "Vinho do Porto" or simply "Porto", which is not named after its region of origin, the Douro, but after the harbour city Porto, from where it is shipped. The English played a major role in its creation in connection with their trade wars with France. For a time in the 17th century, the import of French wines to England was banned and subsequently burdened with high customs duties. This led to a bottleneck in supply. In 1678, a wine merchant from Liverpool sent his two sons to Viano do Castello near the town of Porto to buy wine. In Lamego, they came to a monastery where the abbot served them a wine they were delighted with. The priest told them the secret of why this wine was so pleasantly sweet and smooth, namely by infusing it with brandy, i.e. sprite, during fermentation. The two then bought up the entire stock, sent the consignment to England and the triumphant advance of port wine, initially known as "Red Portugal", began.

Portwein - Dourotal

British influence

The Methuen Treaty, which was concluded in 1703 and provided customs concessions for the import of Portuguese wines into England, was decisive for the port wine boom. The port wine of the time was almost exclusively destined for export to England, which is why it is still called "Englishmen Wine" today. At that time, it was still common to add red elderberry juice as a colouring agent. From the beginning of the 18th century, English, German and Dutch families settled in Porto to market port wine. These included names that still play a decisive role today, such as Cockburn, Croft, Ferreira, Niepoort, Sandeman, Taylor's and the companies Dow, Graham and Warre, which were later taken over by Symington. In 1790, the British trading houses built the Factory House in Porto, which initially served as a factories and then from 1811 to the present day as a gentlemen's club and meeting place.

The British acquired a monopoly on marketing. Under the Prime Minister Marquês de Pombal (1699-1782), who owned a vineyard in the Carcavelos area, the Douro region was defined within its borders in 1756 to protect the authenticity of port wine. Only the best vineyards were included. Of the approximately 250,000 hectares of land, only around one eighth is suitable for port vines. This makes the area one of the oldest legally demarcated wine-growing regions in the world, alongside Chianti. Pombal enacted further measures to protect port wine. As an important measure to break the English monopoly, he founded the "Real Companhia Velha". He also banned the addition of elderberry juice and fertilising with manure. Although this reduced the yield, it increased the quality.

Port wine region

For over two centuries, the defined border applied exclusively to port wine. The Portuguese name "Vinho do Porto" is derived from the town of Porto on the lower course of the Douro. It was not until 1979 that the DOC classification was also extended to "normal" wines, i.e. non-sparkling red and white wines. However, the best soil is reserved for port wine, especially the most suitable slate soils on mostly terraced slopes. The region lies in the north-west of Portugal and encompasses the valleys of the Douro River and its tributaries as far as the Spanish border. These bodies of water have a positive effect on viticulture or create the conditions by forming valley slopes.

Portwein - Karte vom Dourogebiet und Vila Nova de Gaia

There are three subzones. The "Baixa Corgo" (lower Corgo) zone in the west comprises the area north of the Douro between Barqueiros and the west bank of the Corgo and south of the Douro to Armamar. This coolest and most humid zone produces lighter wines. The largest zone, "Cima Corgo" (upper Corgo), lies to the north and south of the Douro between Baixa Corgo in the west and Cachão da Valeira in the east. The area centred around the town of Pinhão is considered to be the best, with most of the large port wine houses having their quintas (wineries) here. The "Douro Superior" zone lies in the east and extends to the Spanish border in the north. This is the smallest and driest area and some of it has not yet been fully utilised.

There are around 30,000 winegrowers on around 33,000 hectares of vineyards, whose 80,000 vineyards are classified according to a very complex system. The criteria assessed are location, slope (the steeper, the better), exposure, altitude,microclimate, vine training, grape variety, plant density, general condition of the vineyard, age of the vines, soil type (slate, granite, stone content) and yield. This is done in six levels from A (1,200 points and more) to F (399 points and less). This results in the yield that may be produced by the respective winery (quinta). The better the rating, the higher the grape price. There are over 80 grape varieties in the Douro region, which are categorised as recommended, permitted and tolerated. The IVDP institute (Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto) regulates the cultivation, processing and trade of wine from the Douro region, in particular port wine. Among other things, the quantities of grapes that may be processed into port wine are determined each year. Around 40% is used for the production of port wine.

Production of port wine

The most important port grape is the red Touriga Nacional, other red grapes are Tinta Amarela (Trincadeira Preta), Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Touriga Franca. The most important white varieties are Encruzado, Esgana Cão (Sercial), Folgasão and Gouveio (Verdello). The grapes are painstakingly harvested by hand and then transported to the wineries in baskets. The port wine needs the tannin- and colouring-rich skins. However, as the wine only undergoes a short fermentation, this is forced by pounding the mash with wooden pestles (macaos) or, traditionally, on a large scale with bare feet in lagares (stone troughs). The fermentation of the wine, which is at most half-fermented, is stopped by adding high-proof aguardente (in contrast to sherry, which is only added after fermentation). The colourless and tasteless spirit (ethanol) at 77% vol. only contributes alcohol content, but no taste or smell. It is distilled from wines from the south of Portugal or from surplus wines from the Douro itself. On average, 110 litres of spirit are added to 440 litres of wine (a quarter), which results in the contents of 550 litres of pipes, the traditional Douro barrels.

Portwein - große Betontanks

The base wines are still finished in the producers' cellars in the Douro Valley. They are stored in large concrete tanks in the vineyards and then transported to the Porto suburb of Vila Nova de Gaia on the opposite bank of the river in spring (see picture above). In the past, special boats, the Rabelos, were used for this (see picture below). It is only there, in the cellars on the northern slope and in the lodges (warehouses) of the numerous port wine houses located here, that the wines are matured over a long period of time and skilfully blended into the famous dessert wine. The warehouses are built in steps up the mountainside from the riverbank. Until Portugal's entry into the EU in 1986, all port wines had to be matured, bottled and delivered in the lodges. Today, this is permitted everywhere in the Douro Valley in the quintas (wine estates) themselves.

Portwein Rabelos (Schiffe) für Transport

Port wine types

The best port wines have an alcohol content of between 19 and 22% vol. and a residual sugar content of between 40 and 60 g/litre. The wines are now divided into groups based on flavour tasting, which determines the future port wine type. The majority is subjected to a blending cycle, which guarantees consistent quality. An important criterion is the number of years that the port wine matures in the bottle after barrel ageing.

A distinction is made between a "British port style" with dark, sweet and fruity wines (vintage port) and a "Portuguese port style" with elegant, soft wines (tawny). There is a wide variety of colours, with red, white and now also rosé port wines, although these have little in common with the types of "normal wines". The bottling date only has to be stated on the bottle label for the 10, 20, 30 or even 40-year-old Tawny and Colheita port wine types, but not for the standard Tawny, Ruby or Late Bottled Vintage.


The name for this type of port wine is derived from the Portuguese word for "harvest" and, in a broader sense, "vintage". It is a vintage port, which could also be described as old tawny or vintage tawny. It matures for at least seven years in wooden barrels, but often for ten years or more. The label must include the vintage, bottling date and the fact that the wine has been aged in barrels. Compared to a vintage, a Colheita is ready to drink immediately. The great vintages of the last century were basically colheita types because they were only bottled after a longer period of barrel ageing, as is the case today. With the Vintage, the Colheita is counted among the best quality types.

Crusted Port

A blend of good vintages that do not reach the quality of a vintage. The wine is bottled relatively young after a maximum of three years, usually without filtration, where it continues to mature for a few years and forms a deposit at the bottom of the bottle and possibly a crust on the bottle wall. It must therefore be decanted.

LBV (Late Bottled Vintage)

This type is, so to speak, a cheaper version of Vintage Port made from grapes from one vintage that has matured for at least four to six years in a barrel and/or tank. The name is derived from the "late" bottling compared to the real Vintage. The black-red wine is slightly lighter in colour than its big brother, full-bodied and fruity. It normally has no deposit, otherwise this is usually declared as "traditional" on the label. Filtered LBVs are ready to drink immediately, but the rather rare unfiltered ones develop for another five to six years in the bottle.

Rosé Port

A pink to bright pink-coloured type first produced by the Croft port house in 2008. It is produced like a rosé wine until it is spritzed. It was authorised as an official type by the IVDP just one year later. The flavour of this light, fruity wine lies between a white port and a ruby.


The simplest and cheapest type. The strong ruby to cherry red colour that gives it its name is the result of the low oxidation and short ageing period. The dark ruby-red, sweet and fruity wine is blended from several vintages of younger wines and matures in barrels or steel tanks for two to three years. Filtration takes place before bottling. The Ruby, which is ready to drink immediately, makes up the largest share of production.

Ruby Reserve

A black-red, tannic and fruity type. The old designation Vintage Character was banned in 2002 to avoid confusion with the real Vintage Port. It is also a blend of several vintages (which is why the old name was confusing). Compared to the Ruby, it matures for longer, four to five years in the barrel. Filtration takes place before bottling.


General term for a type that usually matures for up to three years in the barrel. With longer maturation, it develops a colour ranging from amber to mahogany (tawny = tan). This is also the result (compared to the mostly reddish-black colour of all other types) because tawny is usually produced from lighter wines with a weaker colour intensity and because it also contains a larger proportion of white wines. It is always a blend of several vintages. Occasionally it is blended with small parts of a 20 to 40-year-old port. The older wines of this type are known as "Fine Tawny" or "Fine Old Tawny" or as "Aged Tawny". In the past, they were also marketed under the name "Dated Port". The average age of the wines used is indicated on the label (10, 20, 30 years and even more). Tawnies are traditionally served as a digestif after a meal.

Vintage Port

The so-called "vintage port" is the best port from a particularly good and great vintage. This occurs at best three times in ten years, and the production share is only one per cent. The decision is made individually by each producer; not all of them produce a vintage in the same year. The following vintages have been declared outstanding by most renowned wineries: 1970, 1977, 1985, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2011.

This wine is vinified reductively and produced from a single vintage. It normally matures for two to a maximum of three years in the barrel and is then bottled. A vintage is ready to drink after 10 to 12 years at the earliest. But only after at least 20, 30 or even more years of ageing in the bottle does it reach the highest level of perfection with incomparable oiliness, fragrance, fullness and delicacy. However, as the wine is sold immediately after bottling, the "responsibility" for its maturity lies with the consumer. During bottle ageing, a strong deposit forms at the bottom of the bottle and possibly also in the form of a crust on the bottle wall. It must therefore be decanted.

White Port

This wine is made from white grape varieties. The production process is similar to that of red port wine, but the maceration time is much shorter or is omitted altogether. It matures for two to three years, usually in tanks, and has a relatively low alcohol content of around 15% vol. compared to the other types. Only the White Port is available in sweetness levels from dry to sweet (extra seco, seco, meio seco, doce, muito doce). Those matured for longer in wooden barrels develop a golden yellow colour and a nutty flavour and can also be kept for decades. White Port accounts for around 15% of production.

Additional designations

The additional designations Reserva and Garrafeira are only used for certain types of port wine for better quality varieties (especially longer maturation periods). In Portugal, they are mainly used for normal DOC wines with corresponding production rules (grape varieties, ageing period, alcohol content, etc.).

Reserva / Reserve / Fine

Denotes a higher quality. However, the term is not regulated and is handled differently by each producer. It can be a Crusted, Ruby, Tawny or White.


This outstanding quality must mature for three to six years in the barrel (similar to an LBV) and then at least a further eight years in the bottle. The wine is only produced by very few producers, the first being Niepoort. The term can also be found on the labelling of old Vintage Port, but these do not necessarily comply with today's regulations.

Single Quinta Vintage Port

The term refers to the fact that this port comes from a single vineyard. In principle, this can be any of the types, but it is usually Colheita, LBV and Vintage.

Enjoyment of port wine

For very old port wines, the use of port tongs is recommended because the cork may be crumbly. Types that have been matured in the bottle for a long time, such as Vintage, must generally be decanted. Top qualities must be consumed as quickly as possible within 24 hours of opening. This is why they are also corked normally. Barrel-aged types such as Colheita, LBV and Tawny are more stable in terms of oxygen contact and do not need to be decanted. They are usually sealed with a resealable grip cork. There is also a special port wine glass.

Portwein - Flaschen von acht Produzenten

Port wine producers

The best-known producers, who often also produce DOC Douro wines, or rather Port wine brands include Barros, Bright Brothers, Burmester, Cálem, Churchill, Cockburn, Croft, Ferreira, Fonseca, Kopke, Lemos & Van Zeller, Martinez, Messias, Morgan, Niepoort, Offley, Osborne, Quinta da Carvalhosa, Quinta de la Rosa, Quinta do Côtto, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Noval, Quinta do Passadouro, Quinta de Roriz, Quinta do Noval, Quinta do Vale da Raposa, Quinta do Vale Meão, Ramos Pinto (owned by Roederer), Real Companhia Velha, Rozès, Sandeman, Sogrape, Symington (Dow's, Gould Campbell, Graham's, Quarles Harris, Quinta do Vesuvio, Smith Woodhouse, Warre's), Taylor's and Vicente Faria.

Further information

For the production of alcoholic beverages, see Champagne (sparkling wines), Distillation (distillates), Spirits (types), Winemaking (wines and wine types) and Wine Law (wine law issues).

Douro Valley: By Bruno Rodrigues, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Map: By Rei-artur - Own work, CC BY 2.5, Link
Warehouses: By Michlfs - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
Concrete tanks: Egon Mark
Rabelos (boats): by Nuno Lopes on Pixabay

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