Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
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Port and beyond
Portugal is, of course, rightly world-renowned for its two great fortified wines, but the country’s other vine-growing regions are also well worth a tasting tour of discovery.
There is something very slightly eccentric about Portugal’s status in the world of fine wine. Until relatively recently, its reputation rested largely on its being the home of two of the world’s great fortified wines. And even if, over the past two decades, the country’s other wines have begun to attract a much larger international following of their own, any vinous tour of the country would still be likely to feature a visit to either or both the Douro Valley or the island of Madeira.
The view across the Douro River from Porto to the Port lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia is what many of us think of when asked to conjure up a representative image of Portuguese wine. And somewhere in that cluster of whitewashed buildings, with their terra-cotta-tiled roofs and 1950s billboards advertising the names of the historic shippers, hides one of the world’s most luxurious wine hotels.
Owned by The Fladgate Group, also owner of the Taylor’s, Fonseca, and Croft Port brands, and with some of Portugal’s best-known wine producers as sponsors, the Yeatman, which opened in 2010, offers guests superb views back across the Douro River to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Porto. It houses a two-Michelin-starred restaurant and 83 rooms with private balconies and makes a suitably grand base from which to make a tour of the barrel-filled lodges of Vila Nova. All the big names are well set up for visitors, with Taylor’s, Graham’s, and Sandeman among the most atmospheric.
On Midsummer’s Day, June 24, celebrated in Porto as the Festa de São João, crowds are drawn to the riverbanks to watch the annual regatta, featuring the traditional rabelo boats that were once the sole means of transporting barrels of wine from the vineyards of the Douro Valley to the lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia for aging. The event is the perfect way to recover from the previous late night’s revelry, when the city of Porto is filled with music and dancing.
In recent years, road links between Porto and the Douro Valley have been greatly improved, so the boats are no longer a commercial imperative for producers, many of whom now have their aging facilities upriver in any case. These improvements have also made one of the world’s most spectacular and remote wine regions considerably more accessible for tourists—though even now this landscape of vertiginous terraced banks is notable for its tranquillity. In fact, the train, which tracks the sinuous passage of the river far below and is widely rated by aficionados as one of the world’s most beautiful railway journeys, is by far the best means of reaching the heart of Douro wine country; the trip from Porto to charming Pinhão in the Cima Corgo takes roughly two hours. Another Fladgate property, The Vintage House Hotel (www.vintagehousehotel.com), is one of the region’s best hotels, and it makes a fine base for visiting the various famous quintas that now welcome visitors. Fonseca Quinta do Panascal (www.fonseca.pt) was one of the first to open its doors in 1992, and it now offers tours of the vineyards and lagares in nine languages.
Other quintas worth considering include the Symington family’s Quinta do Bomfim (visits by appointment; +351 254 730 370; email@example.com; www.Symington.com); Quinta do Noval (by appointment; +351 2 23 77 02 70; firstname.lastname@example.org); and Croft’s Quinta da Roêda (www.croftport.com). Fans of the Douro’s table-wine renaissance, meanwhile, may wish to make an appointment to visit the pioneering Dirk Niepoort at his underground cellar at Quinta da Nápoles in Santo Adrião (by appointment only; www.niepoort-vinhos.com) or Quinta do Vallado in Régua in the Baixa Corgo. The latter also has a fine hotel whose accommodation is split between a renovated 18th-century manor house and a stylish new modern wing and is home to a much-admired DOC restaurant.
A two-hour flight southeast into the Atlantic from Porto, Madeira has a well-developed tourist infrastructure, its benign year-round climate making it a popular destination for winter sun-seekers. The Vine—a super-modern luxury boutique hotel in the city center, with local wine-themed interiors by designer Nini Andrade Silva and a spa offering vinotherapy treatments—is a natural temporary home for wine-loving visitors.
Portugal’s other historic fortified wine has its equivalent of the lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia in Madeira’s capital, Funchal. Here, the largest producer, Blandy’s, has a deserved reputation for welcoming wine tourists to its historic Wine Lodge. Offering a range of tours and tastings that feature a comprehensive overview of the firm’s 200 years in the business, a museum, a cooperage, and the aging lofts themselves, the lodge also takes in a wine shop and the well-regarded 1811 Bistro and Wine Bar on site. Farther along the coast, in Câmara de Lobos, both Barbeito and Henriques & Henriques require advance booking for their extensive tastings and tours, with the latter promising to refund the price of a tasting of ten wines should you go on to purchase wines greater than the price of admission. (www.henriqueshenriques.pt; www.vinhosbarbeito.com).
North to south
Much of the current excitement in modern Portuguese viticulture is to do with table wine, and many of the new generation of producers who have helped transform their country’s vinous reputation have also taken enormous strides in enotourism. In the far northwest, the Vinho Verde region is another UNESCO-protected landscape, scattered with pretty riverside towns and a verdant patchwork of smallholdings. One of the best producers in the region, Quinta do Ameal has a set of gorgeously renovated suites and houses in the extensive forested grounds of its early 18th-century property near Ponte de Lima, while the Alvarinho specialist Quinta do Soalheiro offers tours and tastings as well as samples from its smoked pork side-project, Quinta de Folga, on a beautiful site in Melgaço, on the border with Galicia (www.soalheiro.com).
Heading south, a must-visit in Central Portugal is the fabulous Portuguese Manueline Gothic Hotel Bussaco. Built in the late 19th century, it retains the air of a slightly faded but wonderfully atmospheric grand hotel. It also produces much admired traditional wines, blends of grapes from its own vineyards and from growers in the Dão and Bairrada regions. While based at Bussaco, your exploration of both regions may well take you to one of Global Wines’ estates, both of which are very well set up for receiving visitors with restaurants, wine bars, tastings, and outdoor activities: Quinta do Encontro in Bairrada and Quinta de Cabriz in the Dão region (www.quintadoencontro.pt; www.globalwines.pt/cabriz).
On the Atlantic coast, Adega Regional de Colares offers guided tours of this idiosyncratic appellation, with its pre-phylloxera vines planted in the sand dunes (www.acolares.com), while the Sétubal peninsula, easily accessible as a day trip from Lisbon, is home to some of Portugal’s most spectacular and most historic wine estates. The vast Herdade da Comporta (www.herdadedacomporta.pt), the graceful José Maria da Fonseca (www.jmf.pt), and the exquisite palace and museum at Quinta da Bacalhôa (www.bacalhoa.com) are all worthy of inclusion in an itinerary.
Finally, the sun-baked plains of the Alentejo have become something of a wine-tourism hot spot over the past decade. Malhadinha Nova, winner of the 2016 Portuguese Winery of the Year from the Portuguese magazine Revista de Vinhos, also houses one of the region’s best boutique hotels in a stylishly remodeled manor house (www.malhandinhanova.pt). Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan’s stunning contemporary L’And Vineyards Wine Resort has a spa and well-regarded restaurant surrounded by vines with views across the lake to the medieval castle at Montemor. As well as luxury accommodation, it offers a range of activities, including wine tastings, balloon rides, and cookery classes.
The Fladgate Partnership: Defining a destination
Now with three authentic a...
A refined luxury hotel with panoramic views across the Douro River to Porto, the Yeatman also houses one of Portugal’s finest restaurants.
Rua do Choupelo, 4400-088 Vila Nova de Gaia | +351 2 20 13 31 00 | email@example.com | www.the-yeatman-hotel.com
A five-star hotel set in a converted 19th-century manor house high up on a hill overlooking the Douro River, with a spa and two restaurants.
Quinta Vale de Abrão, 5100-758 Samodães, Lamego | +351 2 54 66 06 00 | www.sixsenses.com
Set amid vineyards and around a lake, this stylish Alentejo resort, designed by Brazilian star architect Marcio Kogan, offers wine therapy, yoga, and balloon rides over the vineyards and cork forests.
Montemor-o-Novo | +351 2 66 24 24 00 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.l-and.com
A high-quality Vinho Verde producer that also offers a group of beautifully restored suites and houses amid gardens and forests along a stretch of the Lima River.
990-707 Refóios do Lima, Ponte do Lima | +351 9 16 90 70 16 | email@example.com | www.quintadoameal.com
With a design inspired by the local winemaking heritage, this fine modern hotel has views across Funchal to the sea and also houses a fine restaurant.
Uva R dos Aranhas 27, 9000-027 Funchal | +351 2 91 00 90 00 | www.hotelthevine.com
A grand, elaborate, Old World 19th-century Portuguese Gothic hotel between the Dão and Barriada regions, Hotel Bussaco also makes its own highly regarded, very traditional wines.
Mata do Bussaco, 3050-261 Luso | +351 2 31 93 79 70 | www.almeidahotels.pt
Top Portuguese chef Rui Paula has two contemporary restaurants along the Douro: DOP in Porto itself, and DOC farther upstream in wine country. Both are superb.
DOP: Largo São Domingos 18, Porto DOC: Cais da Folgosa, Estrada Nacional 222, 5110-214 Folgosa | +351 2 54 858 123 | www.ruipaula.com
A stylish wine bar based in a converted railway station in Régua in the Douro Valley, Castas e Pratos has one of the best wine lists in the region.
R José Vasques Osório, 5050-280 Peso da Régua | +351 9 27 20 00 10 | www.castaseprato.pt
This cluster of chicly renovated rural houses, located up the Douro River in the Beira, has a superb restaurant specializing in modern takes on traditional local favorites.
Largo do Côro, 6430-081 Marialva | +351 9 17 55 20 20 | www.casasdoporo.pt
Near the Alentejo coast, this is a beautifully situated small guesthouse amid the vines, offering wine workshops and tours.
A Serenada Enoturismo, RIC 1265 Outeiro André, Sobreiras Altas, 7570-345 Grândola | +351 2 69 49 80 14 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.serenada.pt
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A splendid set of old cellars in the center of Funchal, the Blandy family’s lodge includes a museum, bistro, and wine shop. It also offers a variety of tours.
Avenida Arriaga 28, 9000-064 Funchal, Madeira | +351 2 91 22 89 78 | www.blandyswinelodge.com
The local cooperative offers a variety of tours around an idiosyncratic wine region where pre-phylloxera vines grow in sand dunes along the Atlantic coast.
Alameda Coronel Linhares de Lima 32, 2705-351 Colares | +351 2 19 29 12 10 | email@example.com | www.arcolares.com
An exquisite 15th-century palace with extensive gardens and a maze in the Setúbal peninsula, Quinta da Bacalhôa also houses a winery and wine museum.
Parque Natural da Arrábida, São Simão | +351 2 12 19 80 67 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.bacalhoa.com
This family producer in Vinho Verde has made its name as a specialist in Alvarinho and offers tastings and lunches at its beautiful estate near the Galician border.
Melgaço, 4960-010 Alvaredo | Tel +351 2 51 41 67 69 | Email email@example.com | www.soalheiro.com
This award-winning Alentejo producer has wine tourism at the heart of its business, offering an acclaimed boutique hotel and restaurant, as well as a variety of different tour options.
Herdade da Malhadinha, 7800-601 Albernoa, Beja | +351 2 84 96 54 32 | www.malhandinhanova.pt
The Symington family has two of the best options for Port visits: the delightful visitor center at Bomfim in Pinhão, and the fine Graham’s lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Quinta do Bomfim, 5085-060 Pinhão (Alijó) | +351 2 54 73 03 50 | www.symington.com
With a boutique wine hotel and manor house to hire on site, Quinta do Vallado also welcomes visitors to its stylish modern winery in a beautiful setting in Régua.
Vilarinho dos Freires, 5040-364 Peso de Régua | +351 2 54 31 80 81 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.quintadovollado.com
One of the first Douro producers to open its doors to tourists, Fonseca’s beautiful quinta offers wine- and-food pairings and multilingual audio tours of the vineyards.
5120-496 Valença do Douro | +351 254 732 321 | email@example.com | www.fonseca.pt
One of the great names of Portuguese wine, Esporão is also one of the country’s best for wine tourism, with a restaurant, tours, and an architectural center.
Caminho do Esporao Apartado 31, Reguengos de Monsaraz 7200-203 | +351 2 66 50 92 80 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.esporao.com
You’ll need to book in advance to meet two of the stars of modern Portuguese wine, Filipa Pato and her husband William Wouters, at their small operation in Bairrada.
F Pato, Vinhos Unip, Rua de Sto André 41, 3780-502 Óis do Bairro, Anadia | email@example.com | www.filipapato.net