Dow’s is one of the leading producers of Port. Based in Oporto, Portugal, it has a long and colorful history dating back several centuries. Dow’s history is unusual in that the company was started when Bruno da Silva, a Portuguese merchant, started shipping his wines to England. During an era when the Port trade generally involved English or Scottish entrepreneurs opening business establishments in Portugal, da Silva opened offices in London and married an English woman. His heirs continued to run the business before the company was acquired in the 20th century by the Symington family, a Port dynasty which also owns Graham’s and Warre’s.
Portugal is best known for its two legendary fortified wines, Port and Madeira, but it also produces significant amounts of red and white table wine. In most years it ranks around the 10th or 11th largest wine producer in the world. In 2013, for instance, Portugal was the 11th largest producer just after Germany. Wine has always been produced in Portugal and in fact the country was the first to organize an appellation system, which it did in 1756, nearly 200 years before the French set up their appellations. The highest quality wines are labeled D.O.C. for Denominaçào de Origem Controlada. Many of the most innovative winemakers today, however, are avoiding the appellation system, which they deem too stifling for modern winemaking practices. The Douro Valley is the nation’s most important wine producing region, and it is the capital of Port production. The Portuguese island of Madeira, located 400 miles west of Morocco, is the nation’s other famous wine region, having produced Madeira for export for more than 400 years. Many red and white wine grapes grow in Portugal, though the best known is Touriga Nacional, the red grape used for Port and, increasingly, high quality table wines. Touriga Nacional produces dark, tannic, fruity wines.