The perfect blend of old world traditions and new world innovation, the Douro region is rooted in rich history, while keeping it’s finger on the pulse of modern wine making. With all of the characteristics and accolades to match any other distinguished wine region, the Douro has been relatively underestimated. Despite success that has spanned centuries, this region has remained humble, only recently being given the spotlight it has long deserved. It may be known for it’s Port wine, but it’s the boom of the region’s exceptional table wines that has given it new found popularity success in recent years.
The official Douro wine producing appellation “Douro DOC” is divided into three regions: Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo, and Douro Superior, with a special designation Moscatel do Douro.
Baixo Corgo – Below Corgo
Home to some of the oldest vineyards in the Douro, this sub-region has the most mild climate of the three. This sub-region was the first to be planted, and has around 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres) of vineyards, which is 51% of the total vineyards in the Douro Wine Region. With the lowest average temperature of the three Douro DOC regions (18º C) and highest rainfall (900mm), this region’s wine production is mostly aimed at entry level Ruby and Tawny Port (with several notable exceptions). Nowadays production is shifting towards still wines, of excellent quality.
The region is centered around the town of Peso da Régua, which is also the unofficial capital for the entire Douro wine region. This town was born when two smaller towns: Peso, in the hillside and Régua, which grew around the town’s iconic train station, combined to make one town. It is home to the Douro Museum, several wine bars and restaurants.
Cima Corgo – Above Corgo
Some of the most famous Quintas are located in this sub-region, with 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) of vineyards surrounding the city of Pinhão. It also contains the special designation Moscatel do Douro, specifically for fortified wine made with the grape variety Moscatel. In the village of Favaios, surrounded by Moscatel vineyards, you’ll find the Adega Cooperative, where various types of Moscatel wine are produced. This area is also known for the production of top quality Vintage, and Late Bottled Vintage Ports.
The World Heritage city of Pinhão lies right in the center of this region. This city is right at the heart of the Douro, with a winding road that connects it to Peso da Régua, which leads you though not only breathtaking landscapes, but also some beautiful Quintas. The Pinhão railway station is one of the most beautiful in the country, with traditional blue tile panels depicting the region and the wine making process.
Douro Superior – Upper Douro
This region includes 8,700 hectares (21,000 acres) of vineyards and has the hottest and driest conditions in the Douro. With the Spanish border defined by the river in the east, this region is still fairly wild, home to some of the youngest vineyards in the region. The number of vineyards is continuing to grow at a rapid pace due to the quality of the conditions found here, the ideal climate for grapes has produced some of the best wines from the Douro.
The town of Vila Nova de Foz Côa lies at the center of this region. Up until recently, it has been known primarily for its prehistoric cave paintings, but the town’s wine tourism is beginning to flourish thanks to the development of new vineyards in the area, and growing popularity of the Douro.