Although Port sales still overshadow those for table wines, Douro table wine sales are on a marked upward curve where Port sales have pleateaued. So much so, Douro DOC now represents 46% of total Port volume and 38% of Port value, according to the Institutos dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto.
The growth of Douro DOC since its formation in 1982 marks a fundamental shift in the way the Douro wine industry operates.
'The growth of Douro DOC has been quite simply astonishing,' Paul Symington, chairman of Symington Family Estates, told Imbibe. 'There’s been a growth of €55m in five years. It’s a phenomenal increase. I doubt there’s another wine region in Europe, apart from prosecco, with that level of growth.
'That shows that what the wine producers of the Douro are doing is being well received by wine consumers, in Portugal and abroad, and it’s a credit to the winemakers, and to our vineyards and the grape varieties we have there, that this value has grown on that level.'
Symington believes the next big step after establishing a more premium identity is to embrace is sub-regions.
'I think more and more in the next few years – it will take longer for the officials to understand it, but I think the producers know this already – one day people will say I prefer to drink a wine from the Rio Torto over a wine from the Val Pinhao, or I prefer to drink a wine from Foz Coa over one from the Vila Risa valley. They cannot be more different. It rains something like 800m a year in Régua and it rains about 400m at Vilarica and Vale Meao where we are. How can the wines not be different? So the authorities need to eventually change the rules and allow us to put sub-regions on our wines, which will add even more interest and quality to what we offer.'
Symington was speaking at the first New Douro preview tasting in Porto. The idea of the independent New Douro producers’ group is that this tasting will become an annual event where new wines from the last harvest will be presented.
'We hope that this will be the beginning of an important annual event in the calendar not only for the Douro, but for Portugal and for Europe in general,' he said.
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