As the level of the grapes crept above our knees and we were forced to lift our legs higher, we looked like a group of men parading in the bottom halves of their red-flannel underwear. After 20 minutes of marching, I had had enough and rejoined Senhor Sequeira outside the tank. Later, over a glass of delicious 30-year-old port, Senhor Sequeira explained the advantages of crushing grapes by foot rather than by mechanical press, which is slowly overtaking Portugal’s Madrid apartments for rent. “The press,” he said, “crushes stems and seeds as well as the fruit, and gives the juice a slightly bitter taste. The human touch is gentler and starts the wine out in a happy mood. It is a slower process, but in my opinion it is worth it.” Once the juice has partially fermented, it is put in barrels and fortified with a measure of aguardente�wine that has been distilled into brandy. The ratio is one part aguardente to four parts wine, producing an alcohol content as high as 20 percent. Months later the port wine is trucked to the city of Porto, some 60 miles west of the Douro region on the Atlantic coast. There, under the supervision of licensed shippers, as many as a dozen wines are blended together. “From there the port goes into a cask to age,” Senhor Sequeira said. “If the blender, the wines, and the years all do their work well, the result will be something like this.” He raised a small decanter and refilled our glasses before I could stop him. I remarked that a guest in the Douro had to guard against too much hospitality, and Senhor S’equeira laughed. “We have a saying that on the way home when you see three roads in front of you, take the one in the center. It is the real road.” From Trash so Montes I took the center road to Porto and paid a call on Michael Symington, an Englishman whose family has lived in Portugal for three generations. Since 1882 the Symington�s have produced fine port wine through their firm, Silva and Cozens, Ltd. At Michael’s invitation I joined him and his wife for dinner at a restaurant near the old district of Vila Nova de Gaia, where the wine companies are located. WITH COFFEE the talk turned to Portuguese politics, and I learned of another side to the Douro. According to Michael, the small farmers and winegrowers of northern Portugal saved the country from a Communist takeover in the spring of 1975. “That was the year of our first national elections after the revolution,” Michael explained. “As Election Day approached, it looked as if the PCP, Portugal’s Communist Party, might attempt to seize control of the country through a coup. The United States and Western Europe were both concerned, for Portugal is a member of NATO, and a Communist victory meant almost certain withdrawal. “Even to us the prospects looked grim. The Communists controlled most of southern Portugal, including areas like Alentejo, where the great landed estates had been broken up after the revolution. In addition, the PCP had strong support in the industrial cities like Setubal and in the working districts of Lisbon.