Exploring the Alto Douro Wine Region - Pinhāo, Portugal, Travel + Leisure Blog post

On The Road - Caldas de Aregos to Pinhāo 
Exploring the Alto Douro Wine Region


Known primarily for its Port wines, the Douro produces several excellent non-fortified wines comparable to many of the finest premium wines of the Ribera del Duero wine region of Spain, where the waters of the Rio Douro begin their long and winding journey to the sea.  One of the most beautiful wine regions in Europe is centered around the Rio Douro in the Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro regions of northern Portugal ,upstream from Porto, sheltered from the influence of the Atlantic.

As highlighted in our December newsletter, our recent harvest adventure began in the world heritage city of Porto, the gateway to the Douro Valley.  But visiting the port aging cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia-Porto, and not extending one’s trip to the vineyards themselves would be missing an integral part of the port wine experience, so we headed east to the Alto Douro Vinhateiro.

The Alto Douro Vinhateiro is both a Unesco World Heritage Site and the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, designated as such in 1756.  The Douro appellation encompasses 64,250 acres and is crossed by the winding Douro River, running 900 kilometers from Spain’s Old Castile to Porto. 

Although long famous for its fortified wines, in the last decade the Douro has come into its own as a producer of world-class dry table wines, especially reds. There are now an astonishing 33,000 wine growers in the region, and surprisingly, its brittle, schistous granite soil sustains a wide spectrum of grape varieties. Tending the vines on these vertiginous terraces is exhausting physical labor, as all the work is done by hand. And many estates, or quintas, still maintain the tradition of grape treading by foot in granite tanks, called lagares.

Exploring the Alto Douro Wine Region - Pinhāo, Portugal, Travel + Leisure Blog post