The Douro Valley near Porto is an area of outstanding beauty, as well as the area where Port wines are produced. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that has been used for the production of wine for nearly 2000 years. Originally the wine produced here would have been transported down the Douro River in boats called rabelos. This journey down the river to Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Porto, where the wine was then stored and aged, could have taken 3 or 4 days. Nowadays the area is connected to Porto by a highway that allows for both wine, and tourists, to travel quickly back and forth.
A visit to the Douro Valley should perhaps begin in Vila Nova de Gaia. Here you can visit some of the original cellars where Port wine is still made. The different cellars located along the Douro River offer some great tours and tastings. It also gives you some knowledge about the different types of Port wine and how they are made.
Our tour of the Douro Valley began bright and early. We traveled by van to our first stop at Peso da Regua where we got out to walk across a bridge spanning the Douro River. Peso da Regua, or Regua, has become the main centre for the Douro Valley wine region and because of this is now known as The International City of Vine and Wine.
Port wines have been popular in Britain for centuries. Originally the British would get their port made from grapes in France. However, with Britain and France engaging in wars in the 17th and 18th century, it was necessary to look elsewhere…and the Douro Valley in Portugal became the new production area. Today the Douro Valley is the only area where “true port” can be produced.
What makes the Douro Valley so unique is that no irrigation of the vineyards is allowed. The owners of these vineyards must rely on the weather to provide the heat and the water needed to grow the grapes. However, beneath the ground lies a very special rock…shale! The shale allows the heat from the sun to be retained in the rock, and it also provides the necessary drainage necessary when it rains.
The first vineyard of our day was at Quinta de Marrocos. The word quinta means an estate or rural property. This vineyard has been owned and operated for five generations. It is on the site of an old Franciscan Monastery and it is the women who take care of the day to day operation of this estate. Here you will find the grapes stomped by foot and the wine is bottled and labelled by hand.
After a traditional lunch it was time to visit our second vineyard, Quinta do Tedo. This vineyard was bought in 1992 by the Bouchards, a couple with French and American backgrounds. Originally the grapes on this property were sold to other suppliers, but when the Bouchards bought the property they decided to produce their own Port wine. Today this estate has been given a class “A” vineyard rating, the highest rating from the Portuguese Douro Valley Wine Institute.
The location of this vineyard provided some of the most stunning scenery of the day with the Tedo River flowing just below the estate and lemon trees displaying their brightly coloured fruit.
After visiting the two quintas we were driven to the town of Pinhao where we were able to enjoy a river cruise aboard a rabelo. The views along the river were spectacular and this leisurely cruise, while sipping more Port wine, was a fantastic way to finish off the day.
We made one more stop at a viewpoint, before returning back to Porto.
We loved our tour of the Douro Valley and I would highly recommend checking out CMTours if you are staying in Porto and wanting to visit the Douro Valley for a day.