Portugal may be Europe's last best undiscovered place. As regional as it is small, Portugal deserves at least a week if not three. We recommend that you build your trip around Lisbon or Porto, and explore from one of those cities. Near Lisbon the Alentejo region feels old world with its traditional villages, historic wineries and home cooking served up in portions suited to the days when the meals fed workers back from the fields. In the north Porto grew around the wine trade, being the place where Port wines were aged. Up river from Porto is the Douro River Valley where steep hillsides planted in vines and centuries-old quintas produce both Port and Douro (non-fortified) wines.
Port and Douro Wines
The thing that surprises people most about Portuguese wine is that over 250 indigenous grape varieties, barely known outside of Portugal, are grown and used in the wines. The Douro River Valley, home to Port wine, doesn’t break tradition, using Portuguese grape varieties in the wines. Fabled as the grape source for Port wine, the wines historically were aged in Villanova de Gaia across the river from Porto. Today, however, their locus is in the Douro, where stunning hilltop wine quintas overlook the magical landscape of hills tumbling down to the river. The Douro has long been the home of great table wines as well, but until the 21st century it was a virtual secret and few of the table wines made it further than the doors of the quintas. Today winemakers have established the region on a par with Burgundy, the Rioja or Tuscany with their quality red and white Douro (non port) wines. Both Douro and Port wines are made from a blend of mainly indigenous Portuguese grapes including Bastardo, Mourisco Tinto, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional (red grapes) and Donzelinho Branco, Gouveio and Malvasia Fina (white grapes). The older traditional vineyards tend to be planted with a mix of grapes harvested and vinified together. The new wine producers are innovating by planting single-variety vineyards.
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