Under the title "The Douro Deserves Better," the group “Douro Boys” published a letter on July 12, in which they paint a bleak picture of the situation in Portugal's most famous wine region. The signatories call on authorities such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the IVDP (Instituto do Vinho do Douro e do Porto), the regulatory body for the Port and Douro appellations, to urgently reform the legal framework, which is already 100 years old.
Unfeasible business models
According to the letter, the fundamental problem is that the amount of grapes for Port wine is regulated, while the grapes for still Douro wine are unlimited and traded on the free market. The global demand for fortified wine has been declining by 25% in sales volume to 7.8 million 9-liter cases. In the same period, sales of DOC Douro wines grew significantly to 5.2 million cases. In order to sell their grapes, growers have to offer their grapes at dumping prices, and many are simply giving up.
Production costs in the slate terraces are among the highest in the world, while the price per kilo of grapes is among the lowest. This situation is directly leading to the abandonment of vineyards in the Douro Valley World Heritage Site, as the signatories lament.
In addition to almost all Douro Boys around Dirk Niepoort and Cristiano van Zeller, other well-known personalities from the region have signed the letter, such as Paul Symington, John Graham, and João Nicolau de Almeida, as well as Luísa Amorim from the cork producer Amorim.
Falling on Deaf Ears
Meanwhile, the IVDP has announced the harvest quantity for Port wine. This year, only 57.2m liters of must can be used for Port wine, while it was 63.8m liters in the previous year. The harvest forecasts for 2023 predict an increase of about 10% in the harvest quantity. This dire situation has therefore become even more serious.