The Douro: the River of Gold

Some sources state that the name Douro is of Celtic origin – dubro  (associated with water) and others state that Douro means de ouro – or river of gold, this more romantic-sounding version is my preference.  Originating in Spain as Duero, the river is the 3rd longest river of the Iberian peninsula flowing 897 Km (557 miles) to meet the Atlantic in Oporto.  Douro Valley is a UNESCO world heritage site, granted for the long viticultural tradition that has produced a cultural landscape of outstanding beauty.  Wine has been produced here for 2000 years and since the 18th century the main product, port wine, has been world famous for its quality (as well as today the Douro DOC wine).  To receive UNESCO status is thankfully also a guaranty for protecting its natural beauty.  Driving from Oporto to the quinta and catching the first glimpse of the river below as one descends from Mesão Frio remains breathtaking – a gracefully snaking river flanked on either side by dramatically steep vineyards, olive and almond groves, whitewashed quintas and villages.  The human mind starts to unwind and dream…. Douro Valley has not always been a vast body of water; from the 1960s to the 1980s construction of 5 dams to supply domestic hydroelectric power changed forever the landscape.  The Douro was transformed from a narrow and oftentimes unnavigable river to a modern international waterway.   In fact in June 2013 the Huffington Post rated "the river of gold" as Europe’s top river cruise destination!  We proudly work with one French cruise line, CroisiEurope, and are appreciative of many visitors from all over the world who have toured our property and tasted our port, table wine and olive oil.

I share with you 2 striking photos of the Douro – one taken in the 70s and the other in 2010, big changes!  The earlier photo hangs in our agroturismo's bathrooms to remind our customers to conserve water, even though the difference of water level is due to the dams that were built in the 1980s.  We do need to be careful, all the same.

To conclude this blog I share with you very exciting San Francisco International Wine Competition 2013 results: a double gold AND Best of Spain and Portugal for our Douro DOC 2009 and 2 silvers – for our Fine Tawny and for our Ruby Finest Reserve.  We are honored to be part of Douro Valley, that brings us deserved and hard-earned medals, gold and all!