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Douro

The demarcated wine-producing region of the Douro valley (Região Demarcada do Douro in Portuguese) was established in 1756 to govern the production of fortified Port wines. It is sometimes to this day referred to as "Porto" although the prescribed area itself begins some 40 miles to the east of the town of Oporto and continues inland for a little over 60 miles. There are very strict rules in place which control every stage of production, maturation and bottling for Port wines and these are enforced by the IVDP - the Institute of Wines of the Douro and Porto (Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto). The paper quality seal of this organisation can be found on the neck of every bottle of Port.

Although the climate is generally very warm and dry in viticultural terms in the Douro, temperatures increase further inland towards the border with Spain just as the average rainfall decreases in the same direction. The very poor quality of soil, composed largely of granite and schist, make it virtually impossible to grow anything other than grape vines. The region is divided up into 3 sub-regions: Baixa Corgo (below the river Corgo), Cima Corgo (above the river Corgo) and Douro Superior (the Upper Douro). The Cima Corgo, with the town of Pinhão at its centre, is universally recognised as being the very best for the production of the finest Port. Traditionally the wine was shipped downstream to the Port companies' cellars, which are situated across the Douro estuary from Oporto in the small town of Vila Nova de Gaia, to be matured before shipping. This was largely due to the fact that the baking summer temperatures of the Douro valley combined with either non-existent or erratic electricity supplies made conditions at the Port lodges sub-optimal for the many years of maturation that the finest of these wines require. In recent decades several dams have been constructed to generate hydro-electric power and now, although some port is still matured in Vila Nova de Gaia, many estates are able to exploit the availability of a reliable supply of electricity to power air-conditioning units thus providing a constant temperature for a carefully controlled maturation.

Up until a couple of decades ago any non-fortified wine production was fairly low quality with the majority being drunk locally - with one notable exception being the legendary Barca Velha red wine. Today the situation is rather different as a few Portuguese producers followed the lead of adventurous wine-makers in other countries and started to challenge the traditional Port orthodoxy. This group, known as the Douro Boys, began to make some very interesting table wines which, although needing several years to mature, were recognised as being very fine wines indeed. Having shown what could be done more companies joined in with the notable exception of the Taylor-Fladgate group, comprising Taylor's, Croft and Fonseca brand names, who continue to focus on Port. The Douro is a region well worth monitoring as increasing quantities of good and very good table wines are produced.

The dominant red grape varieties in the Douro are Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barrocca, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Cão. The most famous port producers are Dow, Taylor Fladgate, Warre, Niepoort, Fonseca and Graham.

  1. Burmester, Vintage Porto, 1963

    Burmester, Vintage Porto, 1963

    Burmester produced a great Port from a truly fantastic vintage throughout the Douro. Traditionally made by treading the grapes.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

    Regular Price: £229.99

    Special Price:

    £179.99

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  2. Dow's Vintage Port, 1991

    Dow's Vintage Port, 1991

    Dow & Co. had a very successful vintage which was particularly firm when young, even for this company, with firm structure, moderately tough tannins and a wonderfully concentrated colour although it has matured wonderfully during its life..

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  3. Ferreira, Vintage Port, 1963

    Ferreira, Vintage Port, 1963

    A superb, fully mature vintage Port, now tawny in colour, which is still drinking exceedingly well indeed.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  4. Fonseca-Guimaraens, Vintage Port, 2007

    Fonseca-Guimaraens, Vintage Port, 2007

    This is an excellent vintage Port with a long life ahead of it. Good one to lay down for the future.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  5. Graham's Vintage Port, 1980 (Half Bottle)

    Graham's Vintage Port, 1980 (Half Bottle)

    Underrated in its somewhat callow youth this Port is now showing off its qualities in all their resplendence.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  6. Graham's, Vintage Port, 1980

    Graham's, Vintage Port, 1980

    A classic rich Graham's vintage Port which is still quite opaque with some yellow on the rim. and displaying some mellowed tannins. Complex, mature palate.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  7. Niepoort, Vintage Port, 1970

    Niepoort, Vintage Port, 1970

    Niepoort Vintage Port 1970 is the sort of bottle that really makes an evening complete. It is an incredibly dark and dense vintage port with complexity and real elegance. Still dense in colour although showing yellow at the rim it is a very well-balanced vintage port with fat fruit and great concentration on the palate accompanying rich and sweet cherries, dried fruits, figs and raisins which dominate the nose along with hints of coffee and black tea.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  8. Niepoort, Vintage Port, 1983

    Niepoort, Vintage Port, 1983

    The Niepoort 1983 vintage port is still quite fresh and full of life. Very soft and elegant, the tannins have melted and left behind a port of wonderful complexity. The nose is just as lovely as the palate offering cherries, dark fruits, raspberries, chocolate and caramel.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  9. Niepoort, Vintage Port, 2005

    Niepoort, Vintage Port, 2005

    2005 was declared a vintage by Niepoort although many of the bigger port producers decided to release single quinta ports instead that year. A vintage port that merits an 18.5 score with Jancis Robinson, who confesses to rarely giving more than 18 points, is a very good port indeed. As it is very young, we would recommend giving it another 10 years or so before popping the cork.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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  10. Quinta do Noval Vintage Port, 2003

    Quinta do Noval Vintage Port, 2003

    A wet winter followed by a perfect, hot summer in the Douro created ideal conditions to produce Port with near perfect balance.

    Details
    Colour Port
    Grape Variety Port Blend
    Country Portugal

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