Whoever thinks about Douro cannot help the Port Wine to come to the mind. Yet, this is also the region with geographical status for producing high quality red and white wines that have deserved increasing attention both from experts and national and international consumers.
In 2006, 250 years elapsed since the date on which the Portuguese State has laid the foundations of the constitution of the Douro Region, and enabled a system for regulating the production and marketing of its wines, by royal charter for the establishment of the Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro, dated September 10, 1756.
The Douro Valley is located in the northeast of Portugal, surrounded by the mountains of Marão and Montemuro. The wine-growing area occupies about 40,000 ha of a total area of about 250,000 hectares. The Douro River and its tributaries such as the Tua and Corgo, run through canyons and most plantations are embedded in the basins of the rivers, creating a magnificent landscape, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2001.
The splendid scenario joins the excellence of the wines produced in the three sub-regions of the Douro: Baixo Corgo to the west, Cima Corgo in the centre and Douro Superior to the east. The best table wines come from cooler slopes, such as Baixo Corgo, while the white wines, sparkling wines and the generous Moscatel come from the upper regions of Cima Corgo and Douro Superior.
Douro reds come from native varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Aragonez), Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, while the vast majority is produced from combinations of several varieties, concentrating the complexity and richness that is distinctive of the Douro. There are, however, very successful cases of wine made from a single variety, mainly from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz (Aragonez).
As for the dry whites, they are produced by blending several grape varieties such as Malvasia Fina, Viosinho, Gouveio and Rabigato.
Douro also addresses the worldwide trend of a growing demand for rosé wines, produced from a slight maceration of red grapes. The collection is complete with wines of a much smaller production, mainly from higher areas, such as Moscatel do Douro, Espumante do Douro (VEQPRD) (sparkling) and new wine (wine of the last harvest), as well as the Colheita Tardia, made with grapes under over-maturation.
Not all Douro wines are made according to the same procedures, each producing, obviously, different results.
The most traditional one, the use of the mill, produces wines with greater extraction of color and tannins, which most often means a high aging potential. But there has been an increasing use of more modern systems such as the stainless steel vats with temperature control; in this case, wines are more elegant and can better preserve their aromas. Some producers are looking at combining these two methods to achieve a greater complexity in their wines.
The stainless steel vats are also used in some cases for the maturation of wines before bottling. Traditional large wooden barrels have been losing some ground to these latest solutions, or in other cases to new, smaller oak casks.
On May 29, 2008, Casa Ferreirinha launched its sixteenth edition in 56 years of Douro red wine "Barca Velha", a batch of 26,000 bottles of 75 cl and 1500 of a liter and a half, from the 2000 harvest .
This wine, produced at Quinta da Leda and created in 1952 by Fernando Nicolau de Almeida, owes its fame to the fact that it only receives the "Barca Velha" label when winemakers classify it as exceptional. In those years where such quality is not achieved, it is offered for sale under the label "Reserva Especal Ferreirinha".