Experience the Douro Wine Region
Wine production along the banks of the Douro River can be traced to the writings of Strabo, an ancient Greek geographer who documented that inhabitants of the northwestern portion of the Iberian Peninsula drank wine about 2,000 years ago. When the Romans arrived in what is now Portugal, they cultivated vineyards and made their own wine. Centuries later, the Treaty of Windsor in 1386 solidified an alliance between England and Portugal, which was strengthened further in 1654 by the Anglo-Portuguese commercial treaty. Within a few decades, English relations with France had soured to the point that King Charles II banned the importation of all French goods into Great Britain. As a result English merchants looked to Portugal as a new source of wine. The wines made along Portugal’s coast were too astringent and unstable; they also did not appeal to English consumers. This forced Britain’s merchants to seek the full-bodied red wines made from grapes grown on the rocky hillsides of the upper Douro. They were soon known in Portuguese as “Vinho do Porto” or in English simply as “Port,” so named for the city from which they were shipped, rather than the area of Portugal where they were made.
Today, those steep, rocky slopes of the upper Douro are home to thousands of acres of vineyards; and while more than 100 grape varietals can be used to make Port, only five—Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Roriz (better known as Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional—are typically grown. Wine-tasting experiences with Scenic Cruises occur at a number of significant and scenic locations, including Quinta Aveleda, a heralded sparkling wine producer in the region; the estate of Quinta Bomfim, which is home to the top-rated vineyard in the region; Morgadio da Calçada, one of 13 manor houses and farms that have preserved the stories of Port wine producers in Provesende; and Burmester Cellars, a wine cave that dates to 1750 that was (and still is) significantly involved in the exportation of Port.