Life on the Douro by Zev Robinson

If you enjoy your Port Zev Robinson’s film Life on the Douro is a “must see” . . . and if you are new to it Zev’s film will tell you more about the essence of Port than your first sip from the wine glass will ever do.

Life on the Douro is about the families (and dynasties) of Port wine makers and life in extraordinary scenery of the Douro Valley in the north provinces of Portugal.

This rugged region, with its bands of vines rising in steep stripes up the sides of the Valley, is home to a complex mix of people brought together over the centuries to make Port.

The original Port traders were Scots, Danish, German, Dutch and English who eventually intermarried with long established Portuguese land holding and wine making families.

Zev’s film travels across the generations from the beginnings of Port wine production in the 17th century to the current day in a series of stories from the wine makers themselves – from the Houses of Sandeman,

Symington Family Estates (Cockburns, Warres, Dow’s, Grahams), the Fladgate Partnership (Taylor, Yeatman, Croft, Fonseca Guimaraens) to the Quintas of Noval, Portal, Mourão, Vale Dona Maria, Crasto, Vale Meão, Niepoort Vinhos (Napoles) and Quevedo.

There are stories full of humour, passion, politics and policies . . . of Paul Symington as a child leaping down the terraces at break neck speed (some of these slopes are 70%) to join the vineyard workers for a bowl of soup in the dwelling at the bottom; of George Sandeman who used Tom’s Coffee House in London to sell his Port wine to sailors and soldiers (he knew the Duke of Wellington), of Manuel Pedro.

Guimaraens who supported the wrong side in the Liberal Wars of 1828- 34 and who had to flee to London in an empty Port wine barrel and of the 19th century widow Dona Antonia Ferreira – a philanthropist and visionary who used her wealth to redraw the wine making map of the Douro by extensive planting of vines.

There are also stories from Dona Antonia’s descendants – some of whom are the Douro Boys, who are a major force in promoting the modern face of Port Wine and who are breathing new life and dynamism into the Valley’s viticulture.

These stories are not the only voices in the film. Zev’s shots of the incredible landscape of the Douro speak volumes themselves.

This must be one of the world’s most difficult wine growing regions with some grapes clinging to vines as far up as 1800 feet, but it is also one of the most awe inspiring.

The vast sweeping slopes where vines have been worked by family after family are home to an amazing number of grape varieties – 50 red and at least 20 white. It is also the oldest defined wine region in the world, its Quintas being classified a century earlier than those of Bordeaux.

Then there is the voice of the Port wine itself, sloshing around the legs and feet of the rhythmically marching and swaying workers in the Legares and bubbling in inky purple fermenting juices. It is the liquid essence of the Douro and Zev’s film has captured its spirit beautifully.

If you would like to see Zev’s film you can buy a copy here and if you are interested in following up the film Zev’s Blog has a host of background information and detail.

Photo Credits and Copyright: Zev Robinson.

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