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The Douro was the world’s first demarcated and regulated wine region, in 1756.

The Alto Douro wine region was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, thereby classifying an extensive mountainous viticultural region, which is unique in the world.

The landscape marked by small valleys of terraced vineyards, bordered by olive trees and supported by many kilometres of schist walls, houses a typical Mediterranean fauna and flora and constitutes one of the world’s most fascinating architectural works, where human force and the grandeur of nature are uniquely combined, with the Douro River as a core identity factor. This is one of the rivers in Europe that has the greatest difference in elevation between its source and mouth - its source is located in the Serra de Urbión, in northern Spain, at an altitude of 2000 metres. It is the second largest river in Portugal, with over 210 km of the river navigable in Portuguese territory, thanks to five dams and a system of locks that makes it possible to surpass the differences in elevation.

The territory’s natural demarcation was historically marked by a granite monolith in Cachão da Valeira

The Douro Demarcated Region, located in the northeast of Portugal, is bounded to the north and south, by elevations between 500 and 700 metres in altitude, including areas of granite geological formation.

At the end of the 18th century, the granite monolith in Cachão da Valeira was removed, making it possible to sail upstream along the Douro River and cultivate vineyards to the east of the national border with Spain, thereby originating the Alto Douro, today a sub-region of the Douro Superior. The 1936 administrative reform classified the region in terms of its climate, orography, grape varieties and cultural practices, which resulted in the current sub-regions of Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior - all of which are highly distinct, and extend along the Douro River and its tributaries - from the Serra do Marão and Montemuro, to Barca de Alva in the east, on the border with Spain.

A unique example of mountain viticulture

There are no stretches of flat terrain in the Douro, much less any vineyard plot that resembles any other. Contrary to other winegrowing regions in the world, most of the vineyards planted in the Douro river valley, located on the Portuguese side, have a steep slope, of up to 45º to 50º. Until the late 19th century, it was only possible to plant terraced vines.

Over time, other wine growing techniques have been tried and in the 20th century, vineyards appeared at levels that required less labour and subsequently vineyards were planted in higher zones, with new techniques that accompany the different contour lines between 100 and 700 metres of altitude, offering different microclimates and a rare and very old genetic heritage of 130 outstanding native grape varieties.

Talking about the Douro isn’t just about a river or a region

It concerns an entire history and local people, many generations of men and women who, over the centuries, have built an unforgettable setting and unique way of life in an immense territory, formed by hard soils and very little arable soil. Even today only a small part of the territory is actually cultivated with vines (18.3%), thereby creating a natural mosaic produced by the different vines of small winegrowers, with an average of one hectare of vine per grape producer, a small-scale viticulture where each small parcel of land is treated as a unique and valuable treasure, handed down over the generations.

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