I, together with a few friends, spent a long weekend exploring the Douro Valley Wine Region. After a three hour train journey from Lisbon, and an hour in a coach, the first stop was lunch, and sampling the delights of the local wine.
The Douro River travels over 927 km through the Iberian Peninsula. The river flows from north to south and for 112 km it’s the border between Spain and Portugal. When the river reaches the town of Barca d’Alva, the Portuguese vineyards begin and continue along the banks of the river for 100 km, until just after Régua, where the Atlantic climate is too fierce to grown vines. The river continues another 120 km to Porto, where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
Between Barca d’Alva and Régua 40,000 hectares of vineyards are planted along the steep banks of the Douro and its tributary rivers. Wine has been produced in the region for over 2000 years, it is the oldest demarcated and regulated wine region in the world. In 2001 the region was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch we took a river cruise, passing under bridges and then entering one of the five locks on the river.
Next a tour of the Quinta das Carvalhas Vineyard, written references regarding this vineyard can be traced back to 1759. Enjoying a prominent position on the left bank of the Douro river, in Pinhão, the Quinta covers the entire hillside facing the river and occupies part of the slopes of the right bank of the tributary of the Torto river, and grows 122 different varieties of grapes.
Our tour took us from the riverside, 550 meters up the very narrow, winding roads to the top of the vineyard. Olive Oil is also produced by the estate with the majority of the olive tress over a century old.
Vines are planted on every available space, legislation was introduced to stop vines being planted in vertical rows, they now have to be planted in horizontal rows, on steep inclines, for safety reasons. Along the road to enter the vineyard, orange trees and roses are planted, if there is vine disease it will show on the roses and oranges first, which will provide time to treat the vines and so protect them from disease.
The setting sun provided a great backdrop to the view as we drove back down the mountain for wine tasting. After the wine tasting we walked across the bridge to have dinner on a terrace, watched over by a full moon.