Sunday, August 28, 2016

Iberia's Douro and Duero : One of the World's Great Wine River Valleys

News Flash: Wine Terroir Trumps National Borders

In this article, I'm going to focus on yet another approach to understanding wine for relatively new enthusiasts. For far too long, I've heard wines referred to by their country of origin, as if the national boundaries are the end of the story. I believe the wine producing world needs to be understood without the constraints of national borders and "political maps"....or at least this additional angle should be taken into serious consideration.

When you focus on the concept of "terroir" especially, the regional topography, climate, soil type, and substrata do not know anything about which country they are in. With the exception of Australia and New Zealand who have no land neighbors, there are often adjacent wine producing regions right across the border in the next country. The Iberian peninsula has a couple of clear examples of this. 

In the northern corner of Portugal where Vinho Verde is made, one grape in particular, Alvarinho, is sometimes used to give this popular (mostly white) blend more structure and elegant flavor. It grows very well in the granite laced, high acid soils. Prevailing winds from the Atlantic Ocean to the west introduce an additional saline quality that enhances the effects of mineral deposits beneath the topsoil. This makes the wine extra refreshing, and a natural to pair with fresh shellfish. Well, travel due north across the Spanish border, and you're in Rias Baixas, perhaps Spain's most important white wine region. Their most popular white is--you guessed it--AlbariƱo (the Spanish name for Portugal's Alvarinho). Similar soil and climate conditions exist there, where nature ignores the national boundary.

Less than a one hour drive south, back in Portugal, lies the Douro River, famed for it's contribution of Port wines to the world. Travel eastward towards Spain, and you pass through the Douro wine region, where the grapes for both Port and for the excellent dry red wines of Douro are grown. Then you hit Spain.    ...Does the wine world end there ?   Haha!

Focus on the Blue-Lined Douro / Duero River
Of COURSE NOT. The Douro River cuts north, forming a portion of the border with Spain, then it turns eastward.  Guess what's there?  Toro, Rueda, and Ribera del Duero among others. Rueda is arguably another of Spain's top white wines, made from the Verdejo grape. The other two regions boast some of Spain's boldest reds, each made from variations of Rioja's famed Tempranillo grape. The same river system has given birth to a large number of important wine growing regions. Terroir wins out by contributing what the environment has to contribute.

The fact that they're in a different country, and the river has a slightly different name doesn't seem to bother the vines. 

-- Marc Soucy  FWS  CSW  WSET

definition:  FWS (French Wine Scholar)  
Certification (with honors) by the Wine Scholar Guild, Washington D.C. & Paris France


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