The Douro Valley has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage region thanks, in part, to a blockade during one of Great Britain’s squabbles with France in the 18th century. To spite their Gallic foes, British traders sailed past France to the Iberian Peninsula. There, Portuguese vintners readied their red wine for the long trip back to the elite gentleman’s clubs of London by stabilizing it with brandy. The result is what we now know as port. Authentic port is made at quintas (estates) along a narrow river gorge snaking 100 miles through the mountain ranges of tumbled granite that act as a weather barrier for the terraces of vines introduced by the Romans in the third century A.D. Today, this port-producing district, with its determination to preserve the sort of rustic naïveté that Tuscany and Bordeaux can no longer claim, is emerging as the latest stop on the European enotourism circuit, with new restaurants opening and historic quintas being converted into inns.
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