One of the most scenic spots we visited in Portugal was the Douro Valley. It's one of the oldest wine growing areas in the world and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also the only place that is allowed to grow wine labeled as "port".
Last weekend's One Clue Mystery photo (shown above) was taken in Douro Valley, more than an hour's drive east of Porto. The photo was recognized by Bob Cranwell (the Amateur Emigrant) and Professor Abe. Congratulations to both!
The Rio Douro begins in Spain and runs 557 miles across northern Portugal before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean in the city of Porto. A large portion of this valley is sheltered from the westerly winds, creating an ideal climate for growing high quality wine-producing grapes. There are some 250,000 hectares of grapes grown in this region, most dedicated to the production of port.
I'm more of a beer than wine drinker, but certainly enjoy a glass of Vinho do Porto from time to time (especially with good chocolate), so a trip to see this area was of interest to me. And the journey did not disappoint.
My wife and I visited the Duoro Valley in April, and the scenery was postcard pretty! Steep hills terraced and lush green vineyards, with the River Duoro flowing through this grandeur. Our journey took us to both the north and south banks of the river, and we spent a most pleasant time enjoying the drive and scenery. Besides all the grapes grown, I also noticed a few olive and almond groves.
Port wine has been produced in the Douro Valley for centuries. It was especially popular with the British as an option to French wines during the many years the two countries were at war.
Port is made by fortifying wine with brandy or other grape spirit. It usually is either classified as ruby (deep red color) or tawny (amber color) -- the later often aged and considered a finer beverage.
Many people stop at some of 200 wine estates in the valley to sample their port, or perhaps to buy a meal. We made just a single stop, and enjoyed the fine views the estate had to offer, as you can see below:
Our vineyard had a rather nice gift shop, which included a wine barrel....
....and a nice selection of expensive ports to take home with you.
Day trips to the Duoro Valley from the city of Porto are popular. Many people travel upriver by train or boat to the grape-growing area, about 100 kilometers. Well-healed travelers might choose a helicopter tour. Most take bus or do self-guided tours, as did we. It was a lovely drive, which I enjoyed.