North of Portugal is famous by his Port Wine and Douro River. Beauties that deserve at least two days of your trip. Be prepared to witness a stunning landscape and to taste fine wine. By boat or by train you can discover the stunning valley, home of special grapes that will become a strong and unique beverage. If you travel to north of Portugal you have to see the beauty behind the Port Wine and Douro River.
You don’t need to be a wine expert, neither a wine addicted to enjoy this trip. Believe me, the wine is just an excuse for this whole tour. Nature, fun and a few drinks = Everybody is happy 😉
Most of the tourists, including us, first visit the wine cavas in Vila Nova de Gaia (the city besides Porto town) and later go for a trip around Rio Douro. I recommend you to do the opposite, get to know first the Douro Valley and later go to cavas (place where they keep the wine aging), it makes more sense and you will understand better what the wine guide will tell you.
The best options to visit the Douro Valley are by boat or by train. By boat you can go just half of the way (till Peso da Regua city) and yes, it’s more expensive than the train but is a remarkable experience.
We chose to go by train and I didn’t regret. It was one of the most scenic trips I have ever had. The train travelled around 200 km most of the time on the shore of the river, passing through 26 tunnels and 30 bridges. It is like you are floating over the river!!
The mountains, the huge vineyards, the little villages that we passed through, the river and the sunset…. No words to describe it! Stunning!!
The train leaves from Campanhã Station and runs four times per day. We took the first-afternoon train, at 1:15pm. Packed with some sandwiches, fruits and juice we travelled for 2 hours and a half till we arrived at Pocinho!
Don’t be shy, take food and drinks with you. The train stops only in tiny towns without restaurants and proper bars. I thought we were super prepared till I spot a group of friends that were popping up a cork from a bottle of sparkling wine with a bowl full of fruits and cheese. That`s what I call a proper train picnic! 😉
We stayed at Pocinho for an hour just waiting for the train go back to Porto. There is nothing there. Few houses, the train station and a quite empty shop. But the station is cute!
In our trip back we got an amazing sunset. Unbelievably beautiful!
During the ride you can see that all the vineyards are on the hills, a unique and difficult way to keep the plantation. Because of the soil and the way the grapes grows and are harvested, that Porto Wine has a very distinct flavour.
Only grapes from Douro Valley can produce Port Wine, on 1750 the Portuguese government established the first origin demarcation in Europe. You see, I did learn something new in this tour!!
Now that you already know important facts about the Rio Douro and the grapes, it is time to drink and relax. 🙂 (Rob’s favorite part)
Remember that on our last post we told you to buy your ticket to the boat trip (6 Bridges of Douro River) on the Gaia’s side? Now you can use your combined ticket to visit some cavas and to try some Port wine.
If you didn´t follow our advice, no worries! You can still buy the entrance to the cavas from the guys selling around the shore or just walk around the neighborhood and get into the wineries. The single ticket will be a bit more expensive, but what can you do??!! Next time read our blog before you pack! 😉
The first cava we visited was Quevedo Port Wine, there you can see a little exposition about the company and the wine they produce. On the second floor you have a nice bar where you try different types of wine. Most of the time you get a free glass with your entrance, the second and the third round you pay from your pocket.
Drinkaware advice: Don’t drink too much in the first cava, there will be more wine tasting. We are just beginning!!! You can visit as many cavas as you want (or can pay for). We visited just two.
Our second choice was Offley, there we got a guide tour that taught us a little bit of Port wine history and the difference between all the types and colors.
The wine denominations are: Vintage, Ruby, Tawny, or by age designation: Colheita, Late Bottled Vintage, Crusted, Rosé and White. The sweet and strong taste comes from the way the wine is produced. During the process they add Brandy to stop the fermentation, that keeps the sugar and gives the flavour to the wine.
We love to drink wine, but the truth is that we don’t understand much about them. So if you want some trustworthy information go to the website Wines of Portugal. There you can find good and correct info about all the wines produced in the country. And if you have the chance try them all. Gorgeous!
At the end of the tour we tried nice wines, some a bit strong for my taste. And another tip for you: If you are doing the tour in a group, ask for a mix of wines, so each person gets a different flavour and you can share and taste them all.
When you finish your wine tasting don’t go to Porto straight way. Have a walk around Gaia, there are beautiful buildings and churches there. To finish the day stop by the river, take a seat and wait for the sunset. It is going to be marvelous, trust me! (And that is the time when you open another bottle of wine)