Saturday, 30 July 2016 – Day 45 – Day Tour in Douro Valley, Portugal

Saturday, 30 July 2016 – Day 45 – Day Tour in Douro Valley, Portugal 

At 8.30 a.m. was picked up by our guide, Joao (John) and joined 5 others for our tour to the Douro Valley. Our first stop was at the pretty town of Amarante. We had some free time for a short wander up the street and over the Sao Goncalo Bridge spanning the Rio Tamega for a brief visit to the iconic Sao Goncalo Church. The Igreja e Convento is nearby.

porto-213We continued on through Santa Marta Penagua, well known for its slate products and Sabrosa. Ferdinand Magellan was born in Sabrosa in 1480 and was a Portuguese explorer who led the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe. He died in 1521 in the Philippines and is buried there.

The countryside is just breathtaking with the vineyards going up the hillsides as far as the eye can see.  We were travelling along little laneways with walls along the way. We were making our way to the winery Quinta da Portal. Quinta do Portal is a unique, family, fine winemaking company based in the Douro Valley, in Northern Portugal. Their vines have been grown in this harsh and beautiful land for many hundreds of years.  We were given a tour of the winery, including seeing hundreds of wine barrels. There are three types of wine – table, port and muscatele. Explanations were given on the history of cork and its uses – mainly because of the constant temperature.

Natural cork closures appeared about 250 years ago, displacing the oiled rags and wooden plugs that had previously been used to seal bottles. It created the possibility of aging wine. It’s produced from the bark of the tree, and harvested every seven years throughout the life of a cork oak tree.  Portugal produces  65% of all the cork in the world – Spain and Italy also produce cork. The number written on a peeled cork oak refers to the year it was stripped, e.g. “9” refers to “2009”. The best quality cork comes from the south of Portugal (Algarve and south Alentejo). Cork has many uses apart from sealing wine bottles – great insulator, furniture, jewellery and many other products.

After hearing all about the different aspects of the winery, we then had the opportunity of sampling some of the excellent wine/port.

 

Nice drop of Port

Nice drop of Port

After leaving Quinta da Portal winery, we headed to a beautiful lookout – S. Christo Vao_Do_Douro. One can never tire of the scenery.

porto-235

Now we were slowly descending to the township of Pinhao where we had lunch outside of a lovely restaurant and the meal, once more was quite delicious. After lunch we had a short walk to join a boat for another relaxing time soaking in the magnificent scenery.

 porto-254The boat ride was about an hour and we saw all the vineyards going up the hills and other wineries along the way and imposing village manor houses.

After the boat ride, it was into the van once more and headed to another winery – more interesting talks about the winery and its workings and then some more sampling. The winery we visited was Quinta do Portal a unique, family run establishment. Their vines have been grown in this harsh and beautiful land for many hundreds of years. When in the museum part of the winery, there was a model of a rabelo.  For many years, Porto wines were transported from the area of the vineyards in these boats. With time they became bigger but with the arrival of trains and lorries, the rabelos lost the privilege of being the only adequate means of transport for the barrels, but today, they can be seen along the river being operated as tourist attractions.

One of the rabelos (boat)

One of the rabelos (boat)

Quinta do Bomfim is located in the heart of the Upper Douro Valley and is owned by the Symington family who have worked here for five generations. We were taken into the areas where there are hundreds of barrels and also saw some of the primitive equipments used in earlier days. It was also stressed that working in the vineyards in those days was very harsh.  After seeing and hearing about the winery, we went upstairs to the winetasting area. Another nice drop and the views from here were magnificent once more.

porto-310It was time once more to board our faithful van and headed to Provesende – a picturesque vineyard village located in the municipality of Sabrosa. Situated on a small plateau overlooking the Douro River. We had our last photo stop here.

It was now back to Porto passing through Amarante once more and along the stone walled roads again. We went through the newly opened tunnel (3 months ago) and took 5 years to build. It was goodbye to the other passengers and then John dropped me off at my hotel at 6.45 p.m.  We travelled in one big circle. I walked down the street for a coffee and then it was back to my hotel.

This was a wonderful day and I would recommend this tour to anyone wanting a great day out in the country and  to visit a couple of wineries and enjoy some great Portuguese food. John was a super guide.

I am sure I have repeated myself over, but I found it hard to try and take in all the information and make very crude notes, take photos and listen to the conversations. One drawback of travelling solo.

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