Centuries of economic isolation prevented trade with other wine-producing countries such as Spain and France, so Portuguese growers concentrated on their own grape varieties. Portugal has well over 200 indigenous grapes, only a few of which have travelled anywhere else in the world. While much of the wine world concentrates on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Portugal, offer a new fresh taste of different grapes that are just now coming on the world wine stage.
Grape cultivation on this land continued for centuries, and the grapes themselves evolved over the generations. B 1756, the first designated wine-producing region in the world was demarcated in the Douro Valley. The co-operative created the first compulsory historical production standards and quality regulations for the region’s wines.
The Port wines produced there ultimately became legendary, coveted the world over. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO) recently designated the Douro Valley in Portugal’s Azores Islands as a World Heritage site worthy of eternal conservation.
Visitors to Portugal are well-rewarded with a hands-on view of modern wine trade steeped in history; the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal is probably the last of the world’s major wine regions still to be pressing significant quantities of its grapes by foot - in shallow, open wine-fermenters, called lagares.
Today 60 percent of students graduating in Oenology from University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro in Vila Real, Portugal are women. Like their male colleagues, they are passionate about modern winemaking, yet also deeply rooted in their tradition and cultural heritage. This new generation of grape-growers and winemakers considers itself to be guardian of a valuable and unique treasure: the plethora of indigenous grape varieties that makes Portuguese wines so unmistakable.