The Douro Valley
Reinventing Portugese Wine
- Visit three of the “Douro Boys,” who are revolutionizing dry table wine in the Douro (Niepoort, Vallado, and Vale D. Maria)
- Visit two regions of the Douro Valley to see the two halves of Port-making: Upstream where the grapes are grown; and the port city of Oporto, where Port ages in old shipping lodges
- Private sit-down tastings at Graham’s, Taylor Fladgate, Kopke, Niepoort’s Quinta do Nápoles, Symington’s Quinta do Vesuvio, Quinta do Vale D. Maria, and more
- Dine at 3 wineries: Taylor’s restaurant, and home-cooked meals at Niepoort and Quinta do Passadouro
- River cruise and walking tour in the beautiful town of Oporto
- Scenic train ride up the Douro
You don’t have to drink Port to be a fan of the Douro Valley. Much of the excitement in the wine world revolves around the dry table wines coming out of Portugal, led by the Douro. But no matter which you prefer—Port or dry wine—you’ll be unanimous in praising the grandeur and beauty of the Douro River Valley. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Douro twists between ancient terraced vineyards that sit on precipitously steep slopes, retained by schist walls. It’s truly breathtaking.
We start in Oporto. British merchants began shipping pipes of Port to England as far back as the 1600s and built their aging lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Oporto. Today these same lodges continue to operate as Port cellars and as busy tasting rooms. The first two days of THE DOURO VALLEY focus on this historic side of Porto, with visits to such famous names as Taylor Fladgate, Graham’s, and Kopke, and a peek inside the Ramos Pintos museum to see amusing artifacts from Port’s early days.
We also explore the town of Oporto, a lovely hillside city with ornate Baroque churches, blue-and-white tiled facades, opulent palaces, and lively quay-side restaurants. A walking tour will acquaint us with its neighborhoods, and we’ll dip in and out of cathedrals, historic bookstores, ceramic-tiled train station, and outdoor food market.
The second half of THE DOURO VALLEY moves upstream to the Cima Corgo and Douro Superiore, where Porto’s best grapes are grown—and a new generation of winemakers is reinventing Portugal’s dry table wine using those same grapes. We visit a variety of wineries—large and boutique, old and new, Porto and dry wine—thus providing a solid overview of winemaking in the Douro Valley, the oldest demarcated wine region in the world.
One of the tour highlights is a train ride along the Douro. We take the most scenic section, from Pinhão towards the border of Spain. The landscape grows increasingly rocky and severe as we chug upstream towards our destination: Quinta do Vesuvio. Now owned by Symington, this winery was the most beloved property of the widow Dona Antonia Ferreira, a vineyard real estate mogul in the 19th century who helped shape Port’s history. Today this picturesque estate still follows traditional methods, so we’ll see the granite lagars where workers stomp the grapes underfoot. And we’ll taste some of their seductive Vintage Port in the cask room, overlooking one of the most beautiful rivers in the world.
Everyone should see the Douro Valley at least once in their lifetime. But with the recent release of the 2007 Vintage, which was declared a stellar year, this is a great time to go!