A Travellerspoint blog

Portugal

A River of Wine

Cruising The Douro

sunny 23 °C

Port may put on a suave, sophisticated face, but it engenders frivolity in both young and old because of its sweetness and hidden strength. Stereotypically, port is imbibed by elderly aunts and aging grannies (purely for medicinal purposes) or given to impressionable young women by amorous young studs for purposes completely unrelated to their health. But, while some wine aficionados might dismiss port in the way a connoisseur of classical music may be disdainful of a Strauss waltz for being too sickly or easy on the palate, you can be sure that when the ladies have retired from the dinner table; the bow ties have been loosened; the Cohibas lit; there are few who will pass the decanter of port without taking a fill.
In Portugal a very good bottle of tawny port can be bought for about eight dollars, which may explain why this particular blog entry is becoming increasingly verbose as the evening wears on.
large_P1030542.jpg
It is mid-October in the Douro Valley, the grapes have been harvested and now the vines are in mourning for their lost offspring. The autumn leaves of burgundy and gold are beginning to fall, and soon the naked vines will be buffeted by rude Atlantic winds and chilled by winter’s hoary hand. But the fruit of their slender limbs will be lovingly crushed, often by human feet, until the lifeblood flows and begins its metamorphosis into wine. O.K. Definitely too much port now, but it is difficult not to write romantically about such a beautiful place…
P1030537.jpg
But photos cannot do justice to the sheer vastness and beauty of the landscape. Vineyards pattern the hillsides into a verdant quilt in every direction…
large_P1030565.jpg
While incredibly narrow cobblestoned roads snake through the terraced vineyards and historic villages on either side of the valley...
P1030589.jpg

But the best way to experience the ever changing scenery is from the deck of a river cruiser …
large_P1030491.jpg
Luxuriously appointed vessels like the Ama Vida cruise sedately up and down the Douro and pamper passengers with five star dinners and wines at five star prices, but we chose a simpler trip aboard a traditional barco – a small wooden boat once used to carry the casks of new wine to the vintners in Porto – and we were rewarded with a glass of the good stuff …
P1030524.jpg

We’ve just heard that Canada now has free trade deal with the European Union. We can only pray that this will lead to port at eight dollars a bottle - Saude!

Posted by Hawkson 11:36 Archived in Portugal Comments (8)

Poor Porto

sunny 23 °C

Thanks to the British aristocracy’s love of port wine in the mid 1800s, Porto (also called Oporto) became one of the most splendid cities in Europe. It had magnificent waterfront buildings…
large_Porto.jpg
Beautiful churches…
Chapel_of_Santa_Catarina.jpg
And flambouyant castles…
large_Turret_of_Castle.jpg
The Castel Santa Catarina was built by a wealthy aristocrat, Comendador Antonio Pimenta da Fonseca, in the late 19th century just to house and impress his guests. It is now an opulent hotel stuffed full of original antiques and sumptuous furnishings and it certainly impressed us…
Breakfast_in_the_castle.jpg
From our turret room in the castle everything in the city below looks picture perfect, but when we take to the streets we find a city falling apart faster than Detroit. At least half of the buildings in the city’s historic core are crumbling and boarded up…
Derelict_buildings.jpg
The old city centre may be a World Heritage site but the roofs are falling in, floors collapsing and entire blocks are being left to rot, but there is a bright spot…
large_Rooftops_of_Caves.jpg
These dockside warehouses with their terracotta tiled roofs have been the repositories for the giant casks of ageing port for more than a century…
Port_Barrels.jpg
Each of these oak casks contains upwards of 60,000 litres of fortified port wine for as long as 50 years. The city of Porto is awash with port and every producer wants us to visit their ‘cave and try their ports - ruby, tawny and white. These smaller barrels are for maturing the tawny ports…
More_Port.jpg

For the next few days we are going to follow the river Douro to find the vineyards, the source of all this booze. The river meanders drunkenly as it winds its way through Portugal and so will we if we continue accepting all of the free samples of port on offer – life’s tough for tourists here.

Posted by Hawkson 01:46 Archived in Portugal Comments (8)

(Entries 6 - 7 of 7) Previous « Page 1 [2]