World heritage wine regions: Douro Valley, Portugal

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Demarcated in 1756, the Douro is one of the world’s oldest wine regions and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the human influence on its development. More than 2,000 years of winemaking have shaped it into a terraced, vine-covered, wine-producing destination.

The highly acidic terroir is unforgiving schist, which winemakers have physically cracked and crushed to accommodate vines. Steep mountain contours require heavy terracing and water management; some vines have roots that run to 20m deep. Growing grapes here requires rare fortitude.

Portugal’s famous river valley is a landscape of rugged, unforgiving hillsides that plunge into the deep Douro River below. Human grit and toil have shaped this virtual moonscape over the centuries.

Located in Portugal’s northeast, between Barqueiros and Mazouco on the Spanish border, the western edge of the Douro is hemmed in by the Serra do Marão mountain range and covers roughly 160km. It is remote, sparsely populated and supremely beautiful in its own raw and wild way.

Most visit the region for the complex and beautiful Ports, but today many Portuguese producers are crafting fine red table wines, too.

If you visit it’s best to enjoy a boat ride up the Douro River or a train journey: roads are poorly marked and narrow. And, if timing is no issue, visit when the moon is full and round, casting her otherworldly light over the valley’s quiet beauty.

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