The Douro Valley is one of the most exciting wine regions in the world. It is known for its world-class Ports and red wines. On a recent visit I fell in love with the wines, most notably their white wines. Douro is often dominated by its show stopping reds, but their white wines are equally as good and worth exploring. The white wines of Douro can be crisp, elegant, and age worthy.
Douro Valley is located in Northern Portugal and is undoubtedly the most beautiful wine region in the world. It boasts steep and rugged terrain with the majestic Douro River twisting and turning through the heart of the valley. This wine region is beloved by wine enthusiast and sommeliers around the world as it is producing not only incredible Ports but dry reds, whites, rosés and sparkling wines.
The past decade has been a remarkable journey for Douro as it gains popularity and recognition. Winemakers have traditionally focused on Ports and reds, but that is changing as white wine making techniques have greatly improved in the region. Modern methods using stainless steel fermentation and temperature controls are being utilized.
The Douro Valley has become a playground for white wine experimentation. Historically white grapes have been mixed and planted with a wide variety of grapes in the field. Now a lot of study, research and experimentation is being explored to isolate these white varietals to find the best of the best grapes.
The white wines are extremely special because the grapes are indigenous to the region and are not grown anywhere else but Douro. Most whites are labeled Douro Branco(white) and the wines have great character, acidity and minerality. The five main white grape varietals are:
- Malvasia – Malvasia Fina is the second most planted grape varietal in Douro. It is elegant, floral and has wonderful spice components.
- Rabigato – In Portuguese Rabigato also means “cat’s tail”. It is a slow maturing grape and is fresh and fruity and maintains nice acidity, even in the Douro heat. It is also an ageworthy varietal.
- Viosinho – This varietal is low yielding and full-bodied. It has nice concentration and texture. It is highly aromatic and many refer to it as the Portuguese Sauvignon Blanc.
- Gouveio – Is another age worthy varietal. It has an oily texture and maintains its acidity.
- Arinto – Is one of Portugal’s oldest grape. It maintains great acidity in the heat and has fresh citrus notes. This varietal is often used as a blending grape.
Throughout my journey to the Douro Valley, I tasted many Branco(white) wines. The wines below stood out as exceptional wines, not just for quality but for the price and value.
Dirk Niepoort is the winemaker for this wine and he is one of the rock stars of the Douro Valley and quite possibly around the world. This wine comes from old vines grown at a high altitude made with Rabigato, Códega, Viosinho, Donzelinho, and Dorinto. It is fresh and elegant with a creamy mouthfeel. Notes of stone fruit and citrus circle the mouth. This is a beautiful expression of indigenous varietals of the region. This wine is drinking great now but can also be aged for more complexity.
This is quite possibly the best white wine in all of Douro, made with a blend of Rabigato, Códega do Larinho, and Arinto. The wine is clearly an expression of the terroir of the Douro Valley. Grown at 2000 feet elevation on schist soils this is Dirk Niepoort’s most spectacular wine, many even claim it is better than his world-famous ports. It has minerality and complexity with floral notes and wonderful mouth-watering acidity. This is the “grand cru” wine of the Douro Valley. For those that like a Burgundian style wine, this is the perfect alternative at a fraction of the cost.
The Bulas Branco Reserva is a blend of Viosinho, Códega and Malvasia. Made by a small family producer, representing the heart and soul of the Douro Valley. The wine has citrus and tropical notes with great minerality. A small percentage was aged in new french oak to give the wine added complexity. Its complex and balanced with a nice lingering finish. Highly recommend seeking this out.
This award-winning wine is a blend of Gouveio, Viosinho, Rabigato and Fernão Pires. Nice aromas of apple, peach, and spice. Great complexity with intense mouthfeel. There is a superb balance between acidity and viscosity. The wine is concentrated with a silky texture and a lingering long finish.
Quanta Terra Grande Reserva Douro 2016 ($28)
This beautiful wine is a blend of Gouveio and Viosinho and is aged 9 months in French oak barrels. The wine is plush and creamy with pear and apple compote flavors. There are additional layers of spice with notes of cardamom and vanilla. A touch of mint and anise extend over the rich and finely textured finish, revealing some floral notes. A wine that is complex and full bodied. Quanta Terra pairs wonderfully with seafood as well as meats.
This beautiful Branco is made with Viosinho from old vineyards on schist soils. It is fermented in 100% new Portuguese oak barrels for 6 month. There is a beautiful golden straw color and the nose is aromatic and elegant. It is expressive on the palate with notes of white fruits and spice. Freshness comes to mind as the wine manifests great balance between body and acidity. It has a long and lingering finish. This is a wine worth seeking as most Douro whites are blends, this is a single varietal.
This wine is fresh with citrus fruit in harmony with slight floral nuances and strong mineral notes. The mouthfeel is surprising for this type of wine and it displays a fresh and long finish. This is an incredible value for crisp white wine of this caliber.
There is so much to taste and explore in the Douro Valley, and with the warm hot summer days, Douro whites are the perfect choice. The wines are rare, special and unique. They are wines of soul and terroir; representing the history, region, place and people of the Douro Valley.
Check out what my fellow wine writers are drinking as we discover White Wines from Spain and Portugal this weekend.
- Lori of Dracaena Wines is Celebrating International Albariño Day with #WinePW.
- David from Cooking Chat offers up Rias Baixas Albariño with Summer Party Nibbles.
- Sarah of Curious Cuisiniere puts together Galician Style Mussels In White Wine And An Albariño Wine
- Jill of L’Occasion says What We’re Drinking Now: Chill White Wine from Spain
- Jeff of FoodWineClick! writes Tapas and Albariño: A Winning Combination.
- Lauren of The Swirling Dervish features Wines from Cariñena, Spain: Perfect for Summer Sipping.
- Cindy of Grape Experiences is Summer Sipping: Pazo Pondal Albariño 2017.
- Rupal of Syrah Queen lists Top White Wines from the Douro Valley.
- Michelle of Rockin Red Blog tells us to Beat the Summer Heat with Rias Baixas Albariño.
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm shares Albariño and Seafood Stew: the
- Jane of Always Ravenous serves Grilled Clams with Spanish Albariño.
- Nicole of Somm’s Table is Cooking to the Wine: Adegas Gran Vinum Nessa Albariño Rias
Baixas and an Umami-packed Twist on Fish and Chips.
- Susannah of avvinare offers Albariño paired with Shrimp Paella – A Summer Delight.
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator is having an Albariño Adventure on Anglesey.
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs California Central Coast Albariños
with Spanish Bites.