The first reports of wine from the Douro region appear in the Greek writings, where they describe local inhabitants consuming wine, more than two thousand years ago. Since this time is made on the shores of the Douro Valley, exceptional wines. More than just one more wine, Port Wine is a historical heritage of work and experiences of knowledge and mastery of wine art, which elevated it to one of the highest symbols of Portugal in the World, becoming an "Ambassador" for the country.
Although it was produced all of the time until the creation of Portugal as a country in 1143, it was only after this date that the export of wine from the Alto Douro region began.
The Treaty of Windsor of 1386, the oldest political and military treaty in the world, still in force, allowed traders from both countries to market their products with equal rights in both territories. This brought many English merchants to Portugal who began to live and establish family there.
photo by website www.taylor.pt
At the end of the 17th century, due to disagreements between England and France, the latter imposes restrictions on the importation of English goods, which causes them to increase taxes on French wines, forcing the English to search for wines elsewhere. This place was the Douro region and the English merchants of Viana do Castelo saw the business opportunity as a way of commercial prosperity.
But the wines of the region of Monção and Melgaço were not of total liking of the consumers of the United Kingdom, forcing them to look for wine more in the interior of the Douro Valley. In addition to the British, traders from Germany and Holland also settled in the region.
After they began to settle in the Douro region, they encountered the problem of being very difficult to transport the wine by land to Viana do Castelo, adopting the Douro River as the preferred way of transporting the wine from the slopes of its banks.
This trip would make the city of Porto become the last stop of the wine before the long trip to the United Kingdom and other countries. The wine took the name of the city from where it was exported and is the reason why we say, Port Wine.
One of the reasons widely mentioned for the propagation of Port Wine was the adding of Aguardente Vínica to reduce the fermentation of the wine in the maritime route, which made it stronger but at the same time sweeter than normal wine , conquering more connoisseurs. However this practice was not used by all and only later the process of adding Aguardente was generalized and became an indispensable part of the production of Port Wine as we know it today.
The Meuthen Treaty of 1703, also known as the Treaty of Cloths and Wines, was of particular importance as it enabled the British to increase the export of wine to the United Kingdom, which in turn allowed British merchants to be granted privileges, The Portuguese textile industry suffered, but increased the export of wine and some other products, which helped the development of the Alto Douro region.
In the middle of the 18th century, after years of good production and export, a commercial crisis, where the English said that many of the wines were not legitimate, causes them to pressure the government to protect their interests, leading to the creation of Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro on September 10, 1756, by the Minister of State, Marquês de Pombal.
photo by website www.taylor.pt
Marquês de Pombal, had the arduous task to organize all the reconstruction of the damages caused by the terrible earthquake of 1st of November of 1755. Many measures were taken, among them helping the country through the development of the wine in the Douro region, While at the same time ensuring quality control, thus protecting the genuine port wine.
The first "Demarcation of Mountains" is made, by means of placement of 335 marks of stone, the so-called Pombaline landmarks, in the Region, this being called "Feitoria". That is why, at the time, the top wines were called Wines from Feitoria, becoming the only wines eligible to be exported.
The first bottles of glass appear in the shapes that we know today and that allowed to begin aging wines in the bottle, allowing the birth of the most classic Port Wine, the Vintage Port, which made its debut in 1775.
River transport was an arduous and dangerous journey, the Douro without dams, was a dangerous river, full of "rapids" and rocks that threatened the boats. To make it easier to navigate, one of the first major challenges was the removal of the huge slabs of stones from the site of Cachão da Valeira, a work completed in 1791.
Even with the sea route now easier, navigating the Douro continued to be dangerous, and a boat was created that was better suited to the conditions of the river. The famous Rabelo Boat, today one of the well-known symbols allied to the Port wine, was the solution due to its flat bottom, great rudder and sail that allowed faster and precise maneuvers at its route.
The 19th Century, from the second half, is another difficult time for producers who have come into contact with powdery mildew in the 1950s and the terrible phylloxera in the next decade, which destroyed many crops and brought many producers to ruin. However, in spite of all the problems and diseases of the vineyard and their impact at the local geographical level, a commercial crisis due to Port wine fraud and the impact that the phylloxera had on the region causes its inhabitants to go through a period of misery and hunger combined with commercial disorganization.
Already in the 20th century, in 1926, the Entreposto de Vila Nova de Gaia was created, which would end the direct trade from the existing estates in the region and made all the wines to age in the cellars of the companies in the city.
The Vintage win more and more international notoriety and some new wines are introduced in the market, Dry White and others. In 1933, the Port Wine Institute was created to protect, regulate and control the quality of the region's wines.
During the rest of the 20th century, the region developed more and other styles of Port wine appeared, such as Late Bottled Vintage, launched in the 70's, as well as wines with an indication of age, 10, 20, 30 or 40 Years.
The different styles of Porto made it reach many more lovers, cementing its reputation as a wine of excellence.
Today, Port Wine reaches the whole world, being known and appreciated by millions, who, tasting, whatever the style, are tasting a piece of history and culture of Portugal and the result of centuries and centuries of learning and mastery in the art of making wine.