Drinks writer Jane Clare, One Foot In The Grapes delivers her experiences of The Douro Valley in Portugal
I'll begin as I always begin, with a reminder (for you, not for me). Some weeks ago I set myself the challenge of writing an A-Z of drinks. I’m now up to the letter D. If you missed A-C then fret not, you can make up your own.
When I began, I said my alphabet choices would cover more than just wine and I’m glad I did. Otherwise I could often be launching into a few words of wine drinkie things that could be geeky and freaky and not at all relevant to your life.
In fact, should I just say DRINK for this missive, in the style of TV’s Father Jack, and draw a line under my Ds this week? Perhaps not, as that would be cheating.
I’ll begin my Ds with the name of a river valley, which happens to be a wine region and the source of one of our favourite wines here in the UK.
The place is the Douro Valley in Portugal. It is one of the most stunning wine regions I’ve visited and one of the most memorable.
Ok, ok, those memories include me treading grapes with a giggle of grape pickers while a man in the corner played the Birdie Song on an electric organ. I may have been a little tipsy, I’ll let you be the judge of that.
For one night only at Quinta de Vargellas in the Douro Valley, I stomped, wiggled and jiggled.
I was helping to make port, the famous fortified wine which hails from this beautiful region.
The Taylor’s port vintage is probably for sale now (my treading was in 2015) so you’ve been warned. You can read about how port is made at www.taylor.pt
But back to the Douro Valley.
It’s a magnificent place.
The river has cut a deep valley on its way to the sea, and for centuries man has defied all the odds and planted vineyards on the steep banks. Some of them sit with a gradient of over 30 degrees.
This challenge of man versus landscape has created some stunning, unique vine terraces and they have been recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.
You can take a train from the coast at Porto down the valley and marvel at the view. I did. It was stunning.
I’m moving on with a couple of quickfire Ds which you can apply in your life; DOC and DOCG.
They are the Italian standards of quality on a wine label.
DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata and DOCG is Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garanti.
That’s all a bit of a mouthful, but basically it’s all about quality control.
The DOC rules include which grapes should be used to create a particular wine and how the wine should be produced. DOCG is a step above, refining those quality control rules even further.
A simple way of applying this knowledge is when you are shopping for prosecco.
If you spot a prosecco with DOCG on a label then you know you’re getting a wine which is a level above the standard DOC quality. Many retailers sell DOCG wines (not just prosecco, I hasten to add). Just train yourself to look for them.
Finally in the Ds, I’m heading to cocktails.
In lockdown, this household has spent a fair bit of time browsing another D – Difford’s Guide online.
It’s a fantastic resource to discover spirits and cocktail recipes. One I’ve discovered, while my essential shop has dictated limited ingredients in my household, is a Daiquiri. I didn’t realise that this D was so simple to make.
On Diffords there are several recipes, but my version is this: Pour 50ml white rum (I use Bacardi), 25ml lime juice and 10ml sugar syrup, together with ice, into a cocktail shaker. Then shake vigorously and strain into a glass. I add a twist of lime zest on the glass to help me remember what a cocktail bar looks like.
Stay healthy and safe.
Jane is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers, on social media as One Foot in the Grapes. Email [email protected]
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