The Douro River snakes across north-central Spain and crosses the breadth of Portugal, finding its way to the city of Porto where it opens wide its arms and embraces the sea. The river nestles into a valley and nourishes fertile banks on either side, making it an ideal corridor for wine-growing. Numerous “Quintas” (estates) are scattered throughout the valley, offering wine-tasting, tours, dining experiences, and often boutique accommodation to travellers.
Some of these Quintas are centuries old, some newly-established; some large, some small and family run. What they all have in common is beautiful surrounds and wines of a standard that will wow even the connoisseur.
Roughly 90km east of Porto, in the region of Santa Marinha do Zêzere, you’ll find Quinta de Guimaraes. The estate comprises 40 hectares of vineyards and forest, governed over by a rustic homestead. Guests can stay amidst the ornate furnishings of the 1720 house, which was built in Portuguese baroque style, or simply stop by to enjoy the wines and spectacular views.
Follow the river a little further East to Peso da Régua and you’ll find several top Quintas worth visiting. Quinta da Pacheca, one of the oldest and most established wineries in the Douro, has a strong reputation that’s backed up by the excellent wines and port wines on offer. And did we mention the beauty of the 18th century manor-house-turned-boutique-hotel, with its ivy-covered pillars and view of the gently sloping vine terraces that stretch towards the river banks?
Also in Régua is the equally historic Quinta do Vallado, which this year celebrates its 300th anniversary. 200 years of that history was dedicated to the production of port wine, a specialty of the estate that remains alongside the production of red and white wines drawn from the 50 hectares of plentiful vines.
Nearby the cosy township of Tabuaço sits Quinta do Popa, which proves that long histories are not a requirement for the making of exceptional wines. The estate was purchased in 2003 and re-christened to its current name, under which its prized wines are now produced. This area is also home to Sandeman’s Quinta do Seixo. You might recognise Sandeman, one of the most well-known Port labels, for its iconic mascot, the cloaked, hatted, shadowy figure known as “The Don”. Sandeman’s Quinta do Seixo is notable for its stunning views, 99 hectares of vineyards, and beautifully designed modern architecture.
The smaller, family-owned Quinta de la Rosa sits a little further north in Pinhão. The estate was purchased by the Bergqvist family 1906, and still belongs to them today. The wines themselves have picked up numerous accolades and international stockists (you can often spot them on shelves at luxury stores like Harrods and Fortnum & Mason) while the Quinta’s accommodation is equally lauded for its friendly service, luxurious rooms, and beautiful river views.
A little north again is the village of Favaios. A mandatory visit here is Quinta da Avessada: an ancient winery that also takes the shape of an interactive museum detailing the history and processes of wine-making. This stunning estate is not only award-winning, but sits amoung a UNESCO World Heritage site recognised for its breathtaking scenery and preservation of ancient traditions.
Whatever your plans (and research) .. The Douro Valley has some spectacular vineyards to visit and stay at. You can even book direct, by-passing the intermediaries / agents.