A fascinating, adaptable wine, undeniably traditional and resolutely modern, Port is one of those wines with an immense historical heritage. The name suggests that it originates from the city of Porto. However, it is in the heart of the spectacular Douro Valley, located more than a hundred kilometres to the east of the city, that the birthplace of Port is found.
The vineyards of Portugal have been known since Antiquity, but the history of Port took an extraordinary turn thanks to trade with the England, caused by the embargo set by Colbert, Prime Minister to France’s King Louis XIV in 1667 on English goods, and the subsequent signing of the trade Treaty of Methuen between England and Portugal in 1703.
Port wine did not stand up well to sea travel and often arrived in England having gone off. A British merchant, Job Bearsley, had the idea of increasing the proportion of wine brandy, modifying the wine and blocking fermentation, while retaining residual sugars. Port was born. The resounding success of Port would also cause its endangerment by threatening the quality of the production. In 1756, the Marquis of Pombal limited the Douro vineyards by imposing production criteria. Without knowing it, he had just created the first delimited and regulated wine region in the world, well before the birth of the first AOC (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) in France in 1936 with Châteauneuf-du-Pape. More than 400 years after its creation, the prosperity of the Port trade continues thanks to a perfectly orchestrated and centralised commercial organisation from Vila Nova de Gaia, the historic trading district of the Port merchants, where the greatest Houses such as Taylor's, Croft, Dow's, Quinta do Noval, Ramos Pinto or Fonseca can be found.
Today, the Douro region is where Port wine is produced, covering almost 30,000 hectares of vineyards with small producers owning an average of 1 hectare of vines. There is a saying about this region: "9 months of winter and 3 months of hell." The climatic conditions in the Douro Valley are indeed harsh, with severe winters and very dry summers with scorching temperatures.
Port wine is made from a wide variety of indigenous grape varieties and comes in different styles. Although white Port is available, the finest is red Port. Tawny, Ruby, Late Bottled Vintage (L.B.V) and finally the most noble, Vintage Port, Port is the result of an ancestral know-how which is expressed through its complexity and its exceptional ageing potential.