PINHAU AND THE DOURO RIVER VALLEY
It is hard to describe the beauty of the Douro River Valley and the wine and port producing vineyards that line its steep slopes. It is the third-longest river in the Iberian Peninsula after the Tagus and Ebro Rivers. Its total length is 897 kilometers of which only sections of the Portuguese extension below the fall line are navigable by light rivercraft. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article that will give you historical and geographic information about the river itself.
Pinhau is a small town that is about a two-hour drive from the coastal city of Porto. It is in the heart of the famous port wine producing area in Portugal.
The real beauty of this area of the Douro River Valley is difficult to portray in a blog on a small screen. I am going to offer you a link to a YouTube video created for Quinta de La Rosa vineyard, the Quinta where we stayed for two nights. Please excuse the commercial content of the video, it is worth watching for the sheer beauty of the images.
Traditionally grapes for port wine were crushed manually by foot at the vineyards and then transported in large oak casks to Porto at the mouth of the Douro in the Rabelo cargo boats that transported people and goods on the river. The casks were then unloaded at Vila Nova de Gaia, a town across the river from Porto. On arrival, the casks were then stored in the lodges of the various vineyards for aging and fermentation. (More later.)
Today the Rabelo boats are used to take tourists on Douro River tours out of Pinhau.
The Quinta de La Rosa may be the only vineyard to grow its own grapes, crush them and store them on site during the aging and fermentation process. A special license was obtained for this purpose. Refer to the attached video for some details on this.
When we arrived at the Quinta de La Rosa we were told that they had just finished the harvest and we were invited to participate in the crushing process. We politely declined, but after dinner, we did get a chance to see some of the guests taking part in the crushing. There was a small fee for this but if you lasted the 3 hours and completed the crushing process, you got a T-Shirt and the fee was waived. Professional crushers usually handle the bulk of this task.
The following day we took a one hour boat tour on the Douro River. Being on the river provides a totally different perspective and viewpoint. The steep terraced hills are quite an agricultural achievement and a very efficient use of the landscape.
Often the vineyards are planted with olive groves along the flatter river’s edge and then rows of terraced grape vines on the steeper slopes up on the hillsides.
As you can see, these two people on our tour boat were really enjoying themselves.