Once you start really getting into wine, it’s not enough to just head down to the shops, buy a bottle, and get stuck in. You need to be there, you need to wander round the vineyard and soak it all up. Couple of reasons really, one is that you get to drink the wine with the locals, eating the local food, doing your best to feel like part of the furniture. The other is that vineyards are invariably beautiful places. One wine region is chalked up on most people’s lists as the number one “need to visit”, and lucky little me got to go there a couple of weeks back…the Douro valley in Portugal.
Home of Port Wine
I got invited out by the very kinds folks at Quinta Do Noval. I think the real reason was I had a couple with the guys at Pichon Baron and Disznókó (who also own Noval) and managed to blag my way in (thanks Fiona!!), but we’ll not go there for now! It was a chance to visit the home of Port, a fortified wine that is drunk throughout the year by its army of fans, and at Christmas by everyone else. It’s ok, the next week of blogs will get you on it!
First Stop Porto
Best way to get out to the Douro is to fly out to Porto, the city on the mouth of the river in northern Portugal. A great thing about Porto is that it’s never really been part of any major wars, so most of its old buildings and the old school feel of it is all in tact. We stopped there briefly to grab a glass of white port (as you do), take in the sights, and do our touristy camera thing. NOTE TO SELF: Must remember to come back here for a longer stay with the missus. Lovely looking place.
Flow Down The River
So onto the Douro valley itself. We jumped in a car, headed onto one of Portugal’s shiny new motorways and went straight into the heart of these incredibly beautiful mountains laden with vineyards and terraces. You can drive straight through Regua, one of the main logistics hubs in the area. It’s all a bit industrial (well, in fairness, it needs to be) and head right on down to Pinhão, the historic little town that centres the best vineyards and the top Quintas in the area.
I’ll talk more about the food and the wine later in the week, but for now, just enjoy the pictures. It truly is a breathtaking area with all kinds of other worldly charm, and it completely lived up to the hype.
Right, that’s as much of a travel guide as you’re getting for now. I’m itching to talk about the port wines!