The Douro Region, a World Heritage Site Blessed by Wine

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This article, submitted by ecoTours Portugal, was a participant in the 2015 Guest Bloggers' Program sponsored by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.

An authentic Portuguese jewel, in which nature works together with man, creating the perfect combination to give life to the Douro region, essentially rural and focused on the wine industry.

A region carried to the four corners of the world due to the success of the wines produced here, more specifically the remarkable Port Wine.

There are several factors that make it a much appreciated kind of wine such as: the weather conditions, all methods used to treat the vines, manual and industrial, the bottling of wine and the maturing in wood wine barrels.

Its unique landscape, the quality of its wines and rich soil were the main reasons that led Douro to be considered as aWorld Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001.

Douro vineyards and harvesting the best grapes in the world

This title was given unanimously, rewarding the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, measured by the Marquês do Pombal in 1756. A unique region due to the virtues of its schist soil and its privileged sun exposure with a remarkable local climate together with the hard work of the Douro people.

What led the Douro to be considered a World Heritage Site?

The Douro is the admirable example of how man worked the terraces for the vines to grow, intervening in the landscape without invading it.

The Douro landscape highlights three main aspects: its unique territory, the relation between the wine and the olive culture and the diversity of its local architecture.

Besides this, its candidacy noted the remarkable work performed by the Douro people in the construction of the stone walls that prolong the hillsides.

Another great relevant factor about the Douro wine region is the preservation of the authenticity and integrity of the cultural landscape. 

The Douro Region: Historic Vineyards

The Douro demarcated region where the Douro and Port wines are produced, covers 250 000 acres, of which 48 000 are vineyards spread throughout 22 municipalities.

However, only 24 000 acres, which correspond to 13 municipalities were classified by UNESCO as World Heritage. The classified region is representative of the diversity of the Douro region including: “Baixo Corgo”, “Cima Corgo” and “Douro Superior”.

The Douro Valley is part of the classified area as well as the city of Porto and on the opposite side of the river, the Archaeological Côa Park. 

Baixo-Corgo, Cima-Corgo and Douro Superior

From Régua to Pinhão: a wonderful route

One of the most visited cities in Douro is “Peso da Régua” which attracts its visitors through its handmade sweets called “Rebuçados da Régua” and through the great concentration of wineries and accommodation found in this region. Régua is trying to follow the innovative changes and the growth of tourism levels in the Douro region.

The route from Régua to Pinhão is the most splendid  through very picturesque roads. You can see the vineyards spread everywhere in an almost symmetric structure, overlooking both banks of the Douro River .

Pinhão is a little village near Régua mostly known for its train station with beautiful and inspirational tile panels representative of Port wine production, ancient methods from the grape harvest, treading the grapes to the transport of wine in Rabelo boats down the river to Vila Nova de Gaia wine cellars.

The harvests normally happen in September and October and many wineries in the Douro open doors to visitors at that time. Rather than just seeing how difficult terrains of the region are worked, combining ancient methods of work and technology, visitors are invited to get to work and participate in the harvest.

Régua and Pinhão

The good grapes that you harvest from the Douro Region

The Douro classification as cultural, living and evolutionary landscape came to give its contribution and impulse to a series of changes, some of them defined in the draft application for World Heritage.

On the other hand the tourism level has increased considerably whether by land or by the river. Several wine estates joined the Port Wine Route, opening its doors to the visitants, promoting visits, wine tastings and holding events.

The historic train returned to the Douro line, a steam train that makes you feel as if you went back in time to the beginning of the last century. Besides the relaxing and calm Douro Cruises, the water sports in Douro River are also regular adventure activities.

In 2006 there was a celebration of its 250 years as a demarcated region, always with a sense of responsibility to maintain the Douro’s beauty and culture intact.

The Douro, one of the world's natural wonders and with the best wines

The Douro is internationally recognized

Nowadays, the Douro region begins to have some international impact especially because of the delicious and unique wines produced here, with particular emphasis on Port Wine. 

The Douro was the  Excellence Destination in 2008 by the World Tourism Organization. Douro River Valley was considered one of the 77 World Nature Wonders, leaving behind 440 other regions or sites.

In 2009, the National Geographic Society elected it as the 16th Best Sustainable Tourism Destination of the World.

In 2014, the region was highlighted with some wine awards,  one of which from the prestigious magazine of the wine world, the Wine Spectator, that announced Douro wines among its Top 100 Wines of the year.

Believe me, the journey is worthwhile. Don't miss this opportunity. I'm sure you won't regret it!

ecoTours Portugal