At the forefront of innovative and creative wines and ports, the Douro Valley in Portugal is the motherland of it all. The valley sprawls with spectacular landscapes while boasting unique sceneries of rolling hills and beautiful quintas along the way. The wine valleys of the Douro region are some of the most stunning views you’ll find in all of Portugal. Known as the “magnificent valley”, the Douro comes with a rich heritage. In fact, the whole valley has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
But the history of the Douro region is long and complicated. Their ancient roots of wine making have evolved over many years, making the region famously known for their rich port wines. And as talented and perfected as these ports are, it’s not all they are known for.
In the last decade, many wineries have worked rigorously to showcase a different side of the Douro Valley wines. More and more wine makers have found themselves exploring the full potential of the terroir. Testing and trying for a new and different style of wine. Instead of high sugar and alcohol percentages…think a new light, refreshing wine to taking place.
It’s all in great timing as the demand for this type of travel increases. Travel Market Report states that the number one emerging trend for 2018 is that of food and wine experiences. The Douro Valley itself has started to note high numbers in tourism in the last few years. As many more start to discover the hidden gem of the Valle, we are breaking down the top 5 places that should not be missed along the way.
Taylor’s Fladgate Cellar
Although not located in the Douro Valley region, Taylor’s Fladgate sits just before your trek into the Valley. In the town of Porto, Taylor’s Fladgate is a perfect place to start. The property lies perched up on a mountain overlooking the undeniably beautiful city of Porto. On the tour of the property, you’ll get a true understanding of the Portuguese wine culture. Everything from the education on the soil, the people, the taste, as well as the history behind it all.
The best part is the tasting room. Filled with a plenty of port options to sip on, it’s just as impressive as the sweeping views of the city. Their Barão Fladgate Restaurant is home to a remarkable location and atmospheric setting in the grounds of Taylor’s Port cellars. The views sweep across the iconic Douro River to the old historic center of Porto. It serves up a modern twist of traditional cuisine where the emphasis lies on fresh local ingredients and how it pairs with Taylor’s ports.
From classic white and red ports to their very own private collections, there is plenty to choose from. So sit back and order up a charcuterie plate and marvel at the incredible landscapes that truly characterize Portugal.
Quinta do Panascal
This quinta is a great first stop on your must sees in the Douro Valley region. With wonderful views of Portugal’s countryside, you’ll find this vineyard along your twisty two lane adventure that curves in and out of the region.
At Quinta do Panascal, you’re eased into the world of Portuguese wine. Be sure to grab a refreshing “Siroptimo” (Siroco and tonic) or reserve one of their tailor-made tastings when you first arrive. From there, wander through the maze-like vineyards that are far and wide in between.
The estate has cozy ambiance with a special lunch experience that feels quite opulent. You must book ahead of time as it’s reservation only. You’ll get to choose from dishes such as local specialties like cabrito (mountain goat) to their delicious bacalhau (cod fish). All of their ingredients are fresh and picked right from their own garden.
It’s truly an afternoon well spent after you’ve enjoyed a gourmet cooked meal while gazing over the Távora Valley vineyards. And if you are lucky enough to be here during the grape-harvesting season, you’ll catch a glimpse of the grape treading in the “lagares”, where Fonseca Port wine is still produced the traditional way. Now that…is something speculator.
Quinta da Nápoles
This quinta is home to the household name of Niepoort Wines. Over the past two decades, this company has led the way in what some now call the “Portuguese wine revolution.” Producers from Niepoort have turned their focus on producing lighter, elegant wines- rather than sweet fortified Port wine. (Although they still produce great ports). With all of this, Niepoort has become quite the wine trailblazer in this region.
Perched atop the undisturbed hills of the Douro Valley, this private quinta is one of the top wineries pioneering alower alcohol Douro wine. Through the technique of their “Niepoort Triangle” which uses three different terroirs: Schist (Douro), Limestone (Bairrada) and Granite (Dão), these wines produce a bold and robust, yet elegant taste.
Located along the banks of the Tedo River, the production here is rather impressive. The winery works with nature, using energy-efficient and sustainable methods and solar panels. Through using a gravity-system through holes in the ground line, the grapes slide in and fall down into the barrels for fermentation. Instead of pumping the grapes from one tank to another, this system allows the the grapes to travel from one floor to the next through the stages of the winemaking, maturation and aging. Through this intricate wine making process, you’ll find a more fresh, yet not shy taste on the palate.
A thing to note is that the heat in the Douro Valley reaches extremely high temperatures in the summer. By creating of a blend that produces vibrant fruits with low alcohol in this particular region is well….rather talented. Quinta da Nápoles is a great place to check out what these innovative wine producers are up to. As dedicated educators, these producers are keen on showing foreigners that the Douro region is capable of much more than just a port.
Try their 2013 Bioma Tinto. It’s entirely made up with grapes from the vineyards at Quinta de Nápoles, where organic viticulture is practiced and certified. Made with younger vineyards, their idea was to have less intervention during the winemaking process. The aging process in then made in old wooden containers from port wine wood. They succeeded their goal in producing a pure wine without the oak character, but with elegant and firm tannins.
Ever wanted to ever stay on a vineyard? Turns out you can. Recently featured in Condé Nast, the hidden gem of Quinta Nova Nossa Senhora do Carmo is a luxury wine house. Showing off stunning views, amazing guest rooms, and an impressive wine selection, this place is unbeatable. And staying here is an experience unlike any other. You’ll find everything from sustainable gastronomy in the kitchen, to 5-star services and amenities. It’s no wonder that Quinta Nova was recently rated as one of the must-see wineries in the world.
Mornings on the quinta are spent are a leisurely pace. Most days, you’ll wake up to the site of horses plowing the vineyard lines of their steep terrain. Your days are found wandering through the vineyards, watching the golden light of the sunset fall on the Valley. Just at dust, you’ll most likely be curling up with a book near the fireplace, or enjoying a glass of wine in one of their welcoming living rooms. Each detail at Quinta Nova is intricately designed to make you feel as if the place was your home.
Quinta da Roêda
Now it would be a shame to completely leave port out of the equation as this region is famous for it. Quinta da Roêda is home to Croft’s flagship vineyard estate in Pinhão in the heart of the Douro Valley. Now resigned in the Roêda’s old stables, the quinta resembles the old traditional Douro Valley style. You can try some of Croft’s renowned port wines. Or taste some of the estate’s local homemade olive oil on one of their many lovely terraces.
One thing not to be missed is Croft’s newest innovative creation, the Rosé Port. This port is created through a technique which extracts fresh, fruity flavors. This created a subtle and delicate pink color which appears from limited contact with the skins of classic port grape varieties. The result is a fresh and vibrant taste, filled with rich fruit flavors of port but with a distinctive appeal. And just as Rosé wine is the perfect summer, the Rosé Port is as well.
As we start to see the consumer of the wine market rise in numbers and the popularity for food and wine travel goes up, Portugal has become one of the top destinations for 2018. And with that, more and more food and wine enthusiasts are eager to explore Portugal. And as people’s interest in the education of wine rises, the experiences in the places such as the Douro are now becoming specifically tailored to this type of traveler.