True to the club’s tradition we wake up around 4 in the morning, meet at 4:30 for the short ride to the airport and in order to catch the first flight to Amsterdam. The benefit is of course an early arrival at our destination. This year Porto, Portugal!
At the airport we’re picked up by Diogo from Mandala Travel Service. This company will provide the van and driver, Jean, that enable us to complete our tour.
The first item on the program is Lunch at Casa da Guripa which is located at the beach in a fisherman- village in Lavra about 15km north of Porto. The building itself used to be a spa, and our little group was placed in the tower with a stunning view of the village and the Atlantic Ocean. The menu consisted of a fish soup, a tasty seafood tapas, a paella and for some a cheese-cake for dessert. Accompanying the meal, we had three delicious white wines, and we all fell in love with the Portuguese kitchen and ambience.
On the way back to our townhouse in Porto, we made stops at the city beach at the Doro river outlet, a drive along the river side, and we had a stroll over the Luis I bridge. That night we went to one of the local Tapas bar, Cantinho dos Braganca, and rounded of our dinner with two more wines. At this dinner the term honest wine was coined
After a good night sleep, we were picked up and driven to the Campanha railway station where we took the 9:25 training heading for the heart of the Duoro district. The train ride was relaxing and offered plenty of good views of the Duoro river.
At our stop, Peso da Régua, Jean, our driver picked us up and drove us a few hundred meters to the Duoro Wine museum. Here we were greeted by Mr Barradas who was to guide us through the museum. We learned about the history of the wine region, the struggle of building terraces, the hazards of transporting wine to Porto along the river and before railroads and eventually modern highways, Ruby, Tawny and White Ports, and The Port and Douro Wines Institute. The tour of the museum concluded in our first glass of Port-wine, and in danger of spoiling this travel report, not our last! A very nice museum and recommended by us.
Shortly after our glass of Port we were taken for lunch to the Doc restaurant a little upstream of Peso da Régua. From independent persons we had learned that this restaurant was one of the better in the whole of Portugal! We had delicious fish dishes, bacalhau and seabass, and cheese and chocolate platters for desserts. For drinks we had our first sparkling rose, a white and port wine for dessert. The whole meal spent on the sundeck above the river surface. Excellent service. Worth a de-tour!
After lunch we took a Rabelo boat, the traditional Duoro river work horse/boat but with a modern style engine, upstream towards Pinhao. Following us was a young guide from the area. We learned a few things about growing up and being young in the Duoro valley and learned about the drink Portonic. Something we unfortunately didn’t try during our trip! The river itself is mostly a quiet place, and we enjoyed the transport.
In Pinhao we were taken to the Quinta do Bomfim, which is operated by one of the Port giants- Symington. We were given a tour by a highly knowledgeable employee, and we witnessed the stomping machine. This has replaced the traditional foot stomping used for breaking the grape into a mush and thus assist the fermentation process. At this point it should be mentioned that Port wine requires only a few days of fermentation, and the wine is diluted adding 10% of >70% pure/tasteless alcohol that stops fermentations while the wine still contains a relatively high level of sugar. The final activity at Symington was tasting of three of their wines.
For our next stop, Quinta da Veiga, we had to thrust our lives to our driver! We were taken long and winding roads up the valley side. But the final stop was truly beautiful. This was where to spend the night, but first some of us proved to be truly Vikings and enjoyed the (too) cool swimming pool. For dinner we went to the neighbour vineyard, Quinta Nova, and the Conceitus restaurant. Here we were treated a three-course meal, most of us having veal for the main dish, with an accompanying wine packaged. An out of the world experience.
Back to Quinta de Vega, and a good night’s sleep and a breakfast with a view, we were treated with a wine tasting by the proprietary. What a way to start the day. At Quinta da Veiga the grape-harvesting was ongoing and were also taken to their winery. Another place with a spectacular view. These smaller Quintas are perfect for a getaway. Hopefully we can return one day.
The next stop was Quinta do Infantado. This Quinta differs since they bottle their Ports on the property; i.e. no transport of wine barrels to the city of Porto. Álvaro Roseira took us through the winery and storage, while João Roseira gave us a comprehensive lesson and tasting of their wines and ports. João was also our host for a home-made lunch. A tasty soup and bacalhau paired with wines, and a dessert made by fruits/berries from their own kitchen garden and with a dash of olive oil. And, of course, wonderful port-wines. Miguel, a Lisabon based wine lover, was also part of our little group. Together all had a truly joyful time, and such that time and wine all went away too fast. A consequence of this visit was that Joa Wineclub might got a liking for Port wines!
On the way back to Porto we all fell asleep, but Jean delivered us safely to our Porto apartment. That evening we followed one of the advices of João and had a wonderful Tapas dinner at Nabos da Oucaro, a city central restaurant.
The final wine-tasting day started with a 150km drive from Porto to the Soalheiro vineyard in Alvaredo in Melgaço and close to the border with Spain. Here we were given the grand tour and tasting by Monica Costa, a cheerful and knowledgeable employee at the vineyard. The tasting experience was excellent, and a surprise information was that the Soalheiro wines can be stored for several years and mature and even transform to something different/better in the bottle. During the tasting the proprietor António Luís Cerdeira, who was to host our lunch, was leading a tasting for a Portuguese wine club at the table next to us. The spirit in the tasting hall was high and gave indications for what to come next.
A short drive from the winery took us to Quinta de Folga and a huge country house among the vineyards. Here we were served a Tapas type meal, and that was topped with home bread pork meat. A taste explosion. In addition, several bottles of their best wines were served. Maybe because of the wine, but we made new friends with the already mentioned Portuguese wine club but also with wine-lovers from South Africa. This was a place where it was easy to be happy.
The day ended at Marisqueira Da Baixa a sea-food restaurant nearby our Porto apartment, and we went to bed happy for all we had experienced.
I suppose the big acknowledgment must be given Portugal. What a country, and such a lovely people. We came knowing that we had codfish in common but concluded that we share so much more.
A big thank you to all hosts at vineyards (Quintas). Although our stay is a microscopic part of the larger wine tourism in Portugal, we were always treated with a genuine and heartfelt hospitality wherever we came.
The same type mentality was found at Mandala Travel Service. They genuinely wanted us to have the best experience and to offer us their best service. Finally, the one renting out the apartment, that was our base during the tour, was hospitable beyond expectations.
Joa Vinklubb, in the city of Sola in Norway, is a neighbourhood association consisting of five fine men sharing an interest in wine. The club has been in operation for more than 10 years, and with regular tasting events. Usually with a serious/ scientific tasting but followed up with a nice meal when the official program of the evening is over. The club even has an annual dinner where the wives can participate. Every two years the club visits a different wine region; so far Catalunya (2013), Piemonte (2015), Pfalz (2017) and Duoro/Vihno Verde (2019).