Porto has a history which stretches back centuries, and involves empires, riches, and the discovery of new countries and civilisations. Today, the city and the region which surrounds it is perhaps best known for wine, and in particular, the tawny colored, aromatic and delicious Port wines which have been wildly popular since the 18th century. The region Porto is situated in, the Douro wine region of Portugal, is one of the oldest protected wine regions in the world, and is widely considered to be one of the finest places in Europe for viticulture. Indeed, the area around Porto supports an astonishing number of native and imported grape varietals, although by far the most common grapes found flourishing on the valley sides are Tinta Barroca, Tinta CÃ£o, Tempranillo, Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional â€“ all grapes most commonly used for Port wine production.
Portugal has been an important center for wine production ever since the Phoenicians and Carthaginians discovered that the many native grape varietals that grow in the country could be cultivated for making excellent wines. After all, Portugal has something of an ideal wine producing climate and terrain; lush green valleys, dry, rocky mountainsides and extremely fertile soil helped by long, hot summers and Atlantic winds. Today, such a climate and range of terroir produces an impressive variety of wines, with the best wines said to be coming out of the Douro region, the Alentejo and the Colares region near Lisbon. Portugal has an appellation system two hundred years older than France's, and much effort is made by regulating bodies to ensure that the quality of the country's produce remains high, and the wines remain representative of the regions they are grown in.