The Douro Valley – Burgundy Connection

King Afonso, 1st King of Portugal in the 1100s, from the Duchy of Burgundy lineage. There is a historic and present day connection between Douro Valley and Burgundy; let me recount the historic connection, according partly to Vincent and partly to legitimate sources.

It was during the Moorish invasion (back in the 1000s) when more muscle was needed to fight, that the Duchy of Burgundy, more powerful at the time than the Kingdom of France, was asked to help Spain.

Sao Pedro das Águias, once a Cistercian monastery in the what is today Douro Valley.

Thanks to Spain’s and the Duchy of Burgundy’s bravura, the Moors were defeated and indebted King Alfonso of Spain strategically gave his daughter, Teresa, in marriage to Henry, the younger son of Henry of Burgundy, (native of Dijon!).  As part of her dowry was included the northwest of Spain that became part of Portugal.  Their son, Afonso I, became the first King of Portugal. The House of Burgundy, or Afonsine Dynasty, ruled the Kingdom of Portugal from 1143-1383, and it was during this time that the region’s vineyards, to include what is today Douro Valley, were further developed by Cistercian monks, most probably Burgundian!

Douro View from Maramalal - Version 3

The Douro Valley - Burgundy connection surfaces again in this century, with regards to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Douro Valley received UNESCO status in 2001, based on the criteria of human influence on its development over the last 2000 years of winemaking that have shaped it into a terraced, vine-covered, wine-producing destination.  Burgundy awaits UNESCO World Heritage status to be decided in June 2015, with criteria majorly based on the “climats”, or individual vineyard parcels, that differentiate Burgundy from other viticultural regions in the world.  It is the “terroir” that Burgundy is famous for; the differences from one row to the next can be so acute. The area lies roughly between Dijon and Beaune.

In Burgundy the history of climats dates back to the monks at the Cluny and Citeaux Abbeys in the 1000s, who began the culture of vineyard delineation. This is roughly the same time that the Cistercian monks brought their knowledge of the vine to what become Portugal.  Small world, even back then.

Fingers crossed and long live the Douro Valley – Burgundy connection.