Douro Valley – 10 Things to Observe in the Landscape

The River Douro rises in Spain and flows from almost 900kms across through Portugal before reaching the Atlantic Ocean at Porto.  The UNESCO listed Douro Valley refers to the Portuguese stretch of the river and is one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world.   It is best admired from the river itself but is also stunning by car,  rail,  bike or foot.  No matter which way you decide to enjoy the valley,  the following characteristics and elements are easily observed and identified:


1. Variety

There are over a hundred varieties of grape growing in the valley – some vineyards will have up to 40 species in their fields.



2. Age

Wine has been produced in the valley for 2000 years!  Some vine plants are over 100 years old.



3. Location

Location matters – its not just the side of the valley that is relevant but also elevation – temperatures are higher at the bottom of the valley just above the waterline and coolest at the top of the mountains.



4. Direction

Not all vines are planted in the same direction – vertical planting gives higher vine density but is not suitable for steep gradients due to erosion.





5. Width

All grapes are still harvested by hand.   The older traditional walled terraces have rows of vines packed closely together.  An introduction of mechanisation has led to a change in appearance – wider terraces with rows far enough apart to allow a small tractor to move between them for maintenance.





6. Unused Land?

The patches of forest are not waste – they are left to allow for biodiversity



7. Olives

Olive trees are an intrinsic part of the landscape  – they often serve as boundaries between fields.



8. Oranges

The oranges seem out of place – and we couldn’t understand why workers were bothering with roses when they had enough to do around the vineyards!   Everything has a purpose – disease or blight will attack the roses and oranges before the vines – they serve as an early warning device!





9. Herbs?

Again – there’s a reason for absolutely everything – we saw lavender,  fennel and rosemary in the terraces – all will influence the grape.







10. Harvest

Harvest time is usually spread over about 4 weeks between September and October.



Now you’re ready to visit one of the 200 Quintas (wine estates) and sample the goods!!















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