Alto Douro Wine Region (2001)

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Portugal 2002. World Cultural Heritage. Souvenir sheet showing the vineyard terraces in the Alto Douro Region.

Wine has been produced by traditional landholders in the Alto Douro region for some 2,000 years. 

Since the 18th century, its main product, port wine, has been world famous for its quality. 

This long tradition of viticulture has produced a cultural landscape of outstanding beauty that reflects its technological, social and economic evolution. 

  • Portugal 2002.  Souvenir sheet showing the vineyard terraces, and inserted a stamp featuring the grapes. A close-up of the stamp is shown below on this page. 

The Alto Douro Region has been producing wine for nearly two thousand years and its landscape has been moulded by human activities. The components of the Alto Douro landscape are representative of the full range of activities association with winemaking – terraces, quintas (wine-producing farm complexes), villages, chapels, and roads. The cultural landscape of the Alto Douro is an outstanding example of a traditional European wine-producing region, reflecting the evolution of this human activity over time.  

Portugal 2002. World Cultural Heritage. Aerial view of the landscape of viticulture of Alto Douro.

The origins of the vine and of wine production in the wild territories which later became the cradle of Port wine are lost in the distance of centuries. Much can be guessed as to what happened during the long period lying in between those misty ancestors and the advent and expansion of the famous "Vinho de Emharque" later on known as Vinho do Porto or simply Porto or Port; however this long lapse of time is no more than a shadowy and rather hazy background, or better still, the pre-history of Porto. Port's real life and history only begins with the building up and development of its trade, which dates back to the second half of the 17th century. In 1703 Portugal signed the Methween Treaty with Great Britain. It granted preferential business increased, thus firmly establishing duties to Porto. 
Portugal 2002. World Cultural Heritage. Viticulture and grapes of Alto Douro. Stamp #1. Portugal 2002. World Cultural Heritage. Viticulture and grapes of Alto Douro. Stamp #2.

By the middle of the 18th century, during the reign of Dom José and the Marquis of Pombal's government, a great crisis occurred, with serious and complex causes and consequences which deeply shook the Douro, the Port Wine trade and even the Portuguese economy. In order to face this situation a powerful Company was created in 1756 with special royal prerogatives, which immediately ventured to conceive and accomplish the huge task of demarcating the "Alto Douro". This fact makes Port's birthplace the first great wine region in the world to be demarcated.  

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Other World Heritage Sites in Portugal and Areas (on this website). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Portugal-section, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
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