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The Douro Valley twists its way into north-eastern Portugal from Spain. Carved into schist with steep valley sides and terrace walls clinging to the contours it really is a spectacular sight, all the more so when you realise many of these old walls were built by hand, each slab carried and carefully keyed into position by man.

There is something about schist, a thinly layered rock, that is especially good for vines. Some say the thin layers hold nutrients and precious water that sustains the vines throughout the searing Douro summers, others that the dark rock captures the daytime heat, slowly releasing it through the night or could it be that the schist gives a strong foot hold for the vines ?

No one seems quite sure but as far back as the 18th century the first Marquis of Pombal set out the granite markers around the upper Douro to show where grapes for port wines could be grown; basically the first demarcated area and pretty much following the boundary between the schist and the surrounding granite !

The spotlight has turned onto the Douro in recent years and the stone walled terraces along with the incredible Palaeolithic rock art at the top of the Douro Valley have been given world heritage status by UNESCO.

The grapes of the Douro used to mainly be made for port wine but nowadays the table wines are also popular.

Here is a selection of the range of wines now made in the Douro…..

Moscatel – Vale de Poupa range from Secret Spot wines in Favaios in the hills north of the Douro, this wine has wonderful floral and ripe muscat flavours and clean balanced acidity. A fantastic wine to enjoy with seafood dishes !

Sorrir do Sol from Cesegas is made from a bewildering array of vines known as so-called field blends where different grape varieties were all grown together during the heyday of port production. This wine has a powerful and spicy aroma with notes of blackberry, violet and coffee. On the palate, it has a fine astringency and perfect balance, with a long delicious finish of tobacco and ripe fruit.

A special wine to grace that special occasion !

Late Harvest Semillon from Aneto. This is a dessert wine made in the Bordeaux style of Sauternes. It is a complex and elegant wine with layers of dried fruit, apricot, peach, honey and wild flowers. With its delicious complexity this Late Harvest wine is not only for enjoying with desserts but can be enjoyed with savoury dishes or salty cheeses like Roquefort and Stilton