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The Duoro Valley is one of the world’s most difficult wine growing region. Only 10 to 12% of the entire 618,000 acres of land are cultivated with vines planted on harsh, rugged mountains that rise up from the Duoro River and its tributaries, with altitude as high as 1800 feet above sea level. Despite the difficulties, the vine’s find their way, reaching as deep as 65 feet into the mountain and what seemed like a challenge grew into a first class wine growing region.

Although there are many dry wines in Portugal, this region is best known for their Port wines, and these wines are strictly produced from grapes grown and processed in the demarcated Duoro region. The wine produced is then fortified by adding a neutral grape spirit to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. And the result is a sweet wine with a myriad of flavors of raspberry, blackberry, caramel, cinnamon, hazelnut, almond, butterscotch, cracker and chocolate sauce with high alcohol content (usually between 19% to 22%). And different names are given to the different styles of Port, namely White Port, Rose Port, Tawny Ports and Ruby Ports. And the different qualities are being differentiated again within the Tawnys and the Rubys into Colheita, 10 years through to 40 years, Late Bottled Vintage and single Quinta, etc.

One of the unique qualities of a Port is the blending of Portuguese indigenous grapes such as Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo), etc. One impressive and complex blend is the Quinta do Crasto's Vinha Maria Teresa which is produced with 49 identified and highly concentrated native grapes. And each varietal adds a unique flavor to the blend. The Touriga Nacional gives beautiful blueberry and vanilla notes, and Touriga Franca offers raspberry and cinnamon notes. And several Port Houses are still practicing the ancient way of feet treading to crush and press the grapes today.

Quinta do Noval is one such Portugal house that vinify all their wines through foot treading in stone lagares, a simple but laborious procedure, but produces a result that is simply magical.  Their Quinta do Noval Nacional is made from a specific site in a particular vineyard, from a tiny plot of ungrafted vines. These vines yield barely 200 to 250 cases of wines in a declared vintage and prices are commensurate. These are the ultimate collector’s wines!

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