On the days I toured the Douro Valley the weather was fine and the river often looked a rich green – like olive oil.
The Port I sampled was smooth with complex fruity flavors that evolved in my mouth and lingered to, on one occasion, a spectacular almond finish.
While the Duoro Valley receives its share of tourists, most go because they love Port. It is the region where Port was created. But with such natural beauty and new restaurants and small inns popping up, that is changing.
Port Like Champagne
Just as real Champagne is only from the Champagne region of France, real Port is only from the Douro Valley of Portugal. Port is a fortified wine that ranges from sweet to medium dry and comes in white, ruby and tawny. The latter is the one with nutty flavors thanks to its aging in wooden barrels and the consequential gradual oxidation. If the bottle does not indicate the age of the Port, it aged a minimum of two years in barrels. Tawnies are usually blends and sold as 10, 20, 30, or over 40-year-old Port. The age given is actually the average age of the Port wines used to blend the tawny, not the minimum age of wines in the blend.
Now let's explore a couple of quintas – estates that make wine and Port.
Quinta da Pacheca and 30 Year Old Port
The Quinta da Pacheca, founded in 1903, makes red wine and port, has twenty unique rooms at the inn and a wonderful small restaurant. To get there, you take the train to Regua and a taxi to the hotel. To enjoy their cuisine is just as easy. The kitchen turns out wonderful food and, as would be expected, wine to match. While there, I bought a bottle of tawny Port that will turn 30 next year, as will my first born son. It will be a special birthday gift.
Sandeman's at the Top of the Hill
George Sandeman founded the Sandeman's in 1790 in London and there is still a 7th generation Sandeman working with the organization today. Their Douro Quinta do Seixo sits on top of a mountain which we snaked our way up. From the vantage point at the top I could see kilometers of hillside all covered in grapes.
The Sandeman's quinta is a more modern facility than the Quinta da Pacheca which still crushes their grapes by foot. Here, the grapes are crushed by automated crushers that replicate the actions of feet but that can be controlled to manage the amount of pressure put on the grapes. The tour of this beautiful facility was led by an enthusiastic winemaker and culminated in the tasting of white, ruby, and tawny ports. It was the latter that offered the most beautiful flavors I tasted while exploring Port and the Douro Valley.