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.
Most of us are quick to associate Portugal primarily with the excellent fortified wines which come out of the Porto area, but there is much more to Portuguese viticulture than just this. Perhaps the most popular still wines the country produces are the varieties from the Vinho Verde region, which uses grapes that do not achieve high doses of sugar, meaning the wines are at their best when young and full of natural, springy fruit flavors The wines of the Douro region have undergone many transformations in their flavor and character over the centuries; once regarded as a bitter wine, the exporters experimented with fortifying the wine with brandy. After several centuries, vintners found a balance in the modern age which is at once reminiscent of Port wine, yet with the structure and character closer to other fine Portuguese wines. Thanks to the appellation system of Portugal and the strict laws governing wine production, Portuguese wines continue to maintain their reputation for quality and the distinctive characteristics they carry.