The grape harvest: total immersion in the heart of the Douro Valley

Lying to the east of Porto, the Douro valley is distinguished by its terraces of vines along the river that bears its name. Between tradition and expertise, set off to discover the grape harvest, the first stage in the production of Porto Cruz.

The grape harvest: total immersion in the heart of the Douro Valley The grape harvest: total immersion in the heart of the Douro Valley

The cradle of port wine, the Douro valley is home to some of the oldest and most beautiful vineyards in the world. The region, covering more than 400,000 hectares, was officially delimited and regulated in 1756, creating the world's first protected designation of origin: Porto. All the grapes used to make port wines are still sourced exclusively from this area.

The Porto wine region is among the most difficult to cultivate. The shale and rock make the soil dry, forcing the vines to stretch their roots deep to find water. Among the older vines, each individual vine produces just one bottle of port a year – the price to be paid for an exceptional wine.

The bustle of the harvest spreads through the valley in mid-September, when the ripe grapes are picked. As the sloping and terraced terrain makes mechanisation impossible, all the grapes are harvested by hand. This method enables the pickers to choose their bunches carefully to ensure the highest quality port wines.

Several stages are required to give port wine its specific sensory qualities. After harvesting and destemming comes pressing, the first wine-making operation. This involves releasing the juice and the pulp from the grapes without crushing the pips. Though mechanised at many vineyards, the operation is still performed by foot at the most traditional estates. The grapes are then placed in huge vats to begin the fermentation. This is followed by a crucial stage in port wine-making: alcohol is added to stop the fermentation so that the wine retains some of the natural sugar from the grapes.

Proud of its heritage, Porto Cruz produces its wines with respect for tradition and the key steps in the process to ensure port wines of the finest quality.