Monday, 14 December 2009

Port and the magnificent Douro

Now with Christmas almost upon us, I've been busy stocking up on plenty of goodies to eat and drink. Depending on your taste, certain things become staples at this time of year and in our household port is a particular favourite. It's great having a bottle handy to serve at the end of a meal with some cheese, nuts, dried fruit and chocolate or just to sip slowly at the end of a busy day. I absolutely adore complex, nutty, mellow tawny port – the older the better, but I also love sweeter, fruitier vintage port and seeing how it evolves with time. Either way, it's a warming, soothing treat.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be included in a visit to Porto and the Douro organised by the Symington Family, producers of Graham's, Dow's, Warre's, Quinta do Vesuvio and Smith Woodhouse. I joined a party of leading sommeliers and we stayed at the elegant, historic Quinta dos Malvedos, having taken the train up the Douro valley from the city of Porto. This journey along the river is truly breathtaking and combining it with a couple of days in the characterful, bustling city of Porto would make an ideal trip for a long weekend. The cultural significance of these places has been formally acknowledged as the historic centre of Porto and the Douro valley vineyards are now classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

It's almost ironic how this wild, dramatic, sunbaked region produces a wine so suited to winter drinking and I hope these pictures, taken during our springtime visit, provide a bit of warmth on a cold December day.

Looking across the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia from our hotel in the Ribeira district of Porto.

Enjoying the journey.

Steep terraced vineyards typical of the valley.

Pinhão station.

This detail of traditional local tiling depicts the grape harvest.

Leaving Pinhão station.

Arriving at Vesuvio station.

Quinta do Vesuvio.

Early evening drinks on the terrace at Quinta dos Malvedos.

A view of the valley showing the dry, flaky schistous soil.

Another view of the Douro.

Back in Porto looking across the river towards the port lodges (with brand names on the roofs).


  1. Lucy, I think you've managed to capture the 'personal journey' very well. Nice post
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  2. nice place. good blog. well catalogue.
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