Vineyard Classification

The quintas or vineyards in the Douro region are all graded according to a classification system that is based upon the physical characteristics of the vineyard and their potential to produce quality wines. The system is run by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP) and one of its purposes is to ensure that vineyards producing the highest quality grapes receive a premium price. A secondary function of this system is to allow quintas with a higher classfication to harvest more grapes than a vineyard of a lower grade thereby ensuring the production of quality Port.

The origins of the system date back to mid-18th when Marquis Pombal instigated the demarcation of the Douro region. Before, in the early 18th century, the British Port shippers had tight control over the Port industry and after a series of scandals, such as adulterating Port with elderberry juice, the Marquis of Pombal established the Douro Wine Company.

The concept of the "beneficio" was established for growers and producers of Port wine grapes which effectively is a licence authorising the production of a certain amount of Port. These measures ensured that the Port market wasn't flooded and that the wines were of a high quality. The "beneficio" is still in existence today and will vary each year depending on quality of the producer's vineyard, the climatic conditions and the current conditions of the wine market.

It wasn't until the mid 20th century that the classification system came into existence after the formation of the Casa do Douro, the wine growers guild. Every vineyard or quinta was assessed and awarded numerical ratings according to its terrain and viticultural and vineyard practices. The following categories were considered: location, altitude, aspect, angle of slope, the soil and degree of stoniness, the microclimate, planting density, productivity, age of vines, type of grape varieties and type of training. The total points gained dictates the grading from A to F, with an "A" rated vineyard considered to be the best. A fine example of an "A" rated property, the highest possible designation,  is Quinta de La Rosa. 

Today the IVDP classifies and rates the vineyards of the Douro every year which dictates the production level and the price a grower can receive for their grapes for Port. The IVDP also regulates and controls the quality of Douro DOC wines produced.

 

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