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Published: June 21st 2018
We fulfilled one of our major aims of travelling the Iberian Peninsula by exploring the Douro River Valley. We came away tired but exhilarated by its ruggedness and extreme beauty. Our guide, Diego, picked us up in his very comfortable and smooth travelling minivan at 8.10am and we headed out of Porto full of excitement to view this wild and beautiful landscape that I had read so much about.
The Douro is one of the major rivers of the Iberian Peninsula flowing across northern-central Spain and Portugal to reach the sea at Porto. The Douro (vinhateiro=winegrowing) is an area of the Valley devoted to vineyards and is primarily known for Port, a sweet wine that has been produced here for 2 000 years, along with red and white wines. The “microclimate” allows for the cultivation of olives, almonds and especially grapes, hence the wine. We visited the centre for the production of the Port wine, Pinhao, a small town on the bank of the Douro River and about 25km from Regua, which we also visited. The estates extend along improbably steep slopes of the river valley with the terraces covered in vines and fall steeply to the river’s edge.
The road from Regua begins to become very windy and then it zig-zags up and down the steep hills and travel around sharp horse-shoe bends and we continually wonder how difficult it must be to harvest the grapes, as it is all done by hand. We are compensated by the spectacular views.
Our day included a guided walk around part of the famous 284ha “Crofts” estate with wine tasting in their beautiful buildings. We cruised on the River for more than an hour on a ‘rabelo’, the traditional wine transportation boat, looking up at the steep slopes totally covered in vines. We enjoyed a drink or two whilst cruising and struck up great conversation with a couple from Brazil and the Netherlands and a recent uni grad from Manitoba, Canada. There was about 12-15 people on the rabelo. We were then taken to a 3 course lunch which included much wine (I had very little) followed by a hairy drive to the top of one of the mountains to again have a brief tour and wine tasting from another estate, “Quinta do Jalloto”. The views from here were very spectacular and I spent my time sitting on the edge
of a stone wall just marveling at what I was seeing and experiencing.
The 2 estates visited employ approximately 150 people each during the harvesting period. They are paid … poorly … for very hard and difficult work. They are mainly locals but eastern Europeans are now also being employed as the young of the small townships scattered along the valley do not want to do this difficult job for such small pay of 40 Euro per day. Both estates use totally traditional methods ensuring the same quality is produced year in and year out.
So, we have seen and briefly experienced the famous Douro River Valley. For me it was its exhilarating ruggedness that I loved and will carry with me. Jane feels the same plus she takes away the many tastes of the region too.
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