The dramatic Douro Valley, for long dedicated almost entirely to port production, is now also a significant producer of robust, characterful red table wines with some of the tannins which distinguish vintage port. To some port producers, such Douro DOC table wines are heresy but to quality-conscious wine drinkers they are intriguingly satisfying, with a concentration of flavour many winemakers elsewhere would kill for. Port producer Ferreira produced the prototype, Barca-Velha, and it still commands very high prices, but an exciting range of arguably more sophisticated dense crimson table wines is now available. In fact almost all port producers now make fine table wines too.
This remote valley well upriver from Oporto is one of the wonders of the wine world. Between viciously cold winters, its summers are so dry (often without a single drop of rain) and the slopes of schist and slate so steep (up to 60 degrees) that few plants can flourish here. But deep-rooted vines, often on painstakingly constructed terraces, manage to burrow their way through the rock to such water as there is. Yields are naturally low and the grapes naturally very concentrated in colour, tannin and sugars to ferment into alcohol. All of which makes for some exciting red wine.
Some of the most ambitious examples are Dirk Niepoort’s bottlings, including his Redoma range (of which there is also, most unusually, a white and a pink), and Chryseia, a vaguely claret-like variant made by the Symington port family (who produce Graham, Dow, Warre and a host of other ports) and Bruno Prats, once owner of Château Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux. Other producers of characterful red Douro table wine with a reliable track record include Pintas, Poeira, Quinta do Côtto, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta da Gaivosa, Quinta de Leda, Quinta de la Rosa, Quinta do Vale D. Maria, Quinta do Vale Meão and Quinta do Vallado, but newcomers appear with exciting offerings every year. Duriense is the IGP denomination here, with wines so labelled typically produced from international varieties such as Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.