The history of wine in the Douro Valley is long. In fact, winemaking in the region can be traced back to the Roman occupation in the 2nd-century. The tradition even managed to survive Moorish occupation. Despite the fact that drinking wine was forbidden to those practicing Islam, it proved to be a valuable commodity so it was frequently used in trade and export.
Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, was born to a father from the Dukedom of Burgundy and Cistercian monks that came from that region are believed to be the owners who significantly developed viticulture in the Douro Valley.
The signing of the Treaty of Methwen in 1703 gave the Portuguese preferential access to textiles from England in exchange for their preferential access to the port wine that is characteristic of the region.
In 1880, the Portuguese wine industry was almost destroyed forever by a mildew named oidium and the phylloxera aphid. This devastating circumstance made it necessary for Portugal to replant its vines and start over again putting it at a slight disadvantage on the European wine market and it is only in the past few decades that things have truly been righted.
In 1991, the upper Douro, or Alto Douro region, was named as a UNESCO World Heritage site in recognition of its long tradition of port wine production and the way it fueled the growth of Portugal in significant economic and cultural ways.
Because the Douro Valley region enjoys ideal grape-growing conditions, there are many great vineyards to explore. Instead of attempting to list them all, we have opted to highlight some of our favorites.
Quinta de La Rosa
Quinta de La Rosa is a family-owned estate in Pinhao. In 1906, the estate was given to Claire Feueheerd as a christening gift. Today, it remains in the family, operated by her granddaughter Sophia Bergqvist.
Located next to the Douro River, the location spans 55 acres and provides a stunning example of the region’s terraced vineyards.
Quinta de la Rosa is known for both table wines and port. In 2012, a complete refurbishment of its production and cellar facilities.
This winery offers three, 60-minute tours each day that includes a small tasting or you can arrange a private tour. As with many wineries on this list, it is a good idea to call ahead to reserve your place.
With a restaurant on-site, you can stay for lunch or dinner, or It is possible to stay the entire night in the original Quinta as there are 14 available en suite and suites.
Quinta da Pacheca is one of the oldest wineries in the country. In fact, the first reference to this Quinta can be found in a document dating back to 1738!
For those looking to be fully immersed in the winemaking experience, this is the place for you. Not only does this estate provide ample wine and food tasting options, but they also allow you to get in on the action. At harvest time, visitors can participate in traditional grape stomping!
This winery is known for producing port, Douro wine, as well as a deliciously sweet and fragrant Moscatel. Enjoy a wine tasting or take a vineyard tour.
Quinta da Pacheca includes beautiful accommodations so take a break from the ordinary and relax in one of the stylish rooms, wander the gardens, or enjoy a meal at the adjoining restaurant. For a special experience, book yourself a wine barrel for the night. These enormous wine barrel-shaped suites allow you to wake up in the middle of the vineyard and experience the natural beauty wine country.
The restaurant's menu changes with the seasons but you can always count on one thing: a superb wine and food pairing!
Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, or Quinta Nova, is another old vineyard. Founded in 1746, this is the place to visit if you are looking to step outside an ordinary wine tasting experience.
Quinta Nova offers unique experiences like a wine boat tour along the Douro River, vineyard tours, wine cellar tours, and the opportunity to play winemaker for the day. You can enjoy incredible food pairings with the wine and tapas experience.
From rosé to vintage port, the grape varieties and terroir at Quinta Nova produce from incredible wines known for their complexity, sophistication, fruity aromas, balance, and concentration of color.
Stay in one of the 11 available rooms to get a true feel for this historic site. Be sure to take some time to explore the Fernanda Ramos Amorim Wine Museum Center to better understand the history of port wine and the tools used to produce it.
Quinta do Seixo has over a century of growing some of the traditional Douro grape varieties and as such, it is home to Sandeman, the most recognizable name in port wine. From tawny port to aged vintages, you can find and taste them all here.
In Porto, you can visit the Sandeman cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia where wine casks and barrels have been aging for two centuries but to get a real sense of history, you need to make a trip to the vineyard.
Tour the 100 acres and enjoy the spectacular views from the Douro's south shore. Here, surrounded by old vines, you can learn the mysterious history of port wine from the Sandeman Don. See a first-hand demonstration of wine production methods before participating in a tasting.
If you do not want to stay at one of the Douro Valley wineries, there are plenty of other options available to you. Here are two of our top picks for where to stay in the Douro Valley:
The Yeatman Hotel
The Yeatman is the best hotel in Porto. Situated on top of a hill this hotel provides incredible views of Porto and the Douro River. Each room has it's own stylish design. With a spa, two infinity pools, a restaurant, and a location near Porto and the Port wine cellars, this is an ideal accommodation for even the most discerning wine lovers.
For an escape from the liveliness of vacationing in the city, book yourself a place at the Casa de Belharino the small town of Miranda do Douro. This family-run guest house has 6 rooms, each decorated with its own Portuguese theme and unique artwork. You can swim in the outdoor pool or relax in the hammock. Breakfast and local products are provided to guests at no extra cost.
Wine tourism is very popular and you have many tour options available to you. At Iberian Escapes, we've used our knowledge and experience to put together a unique wine experience focused on Porto and the Douro Valley region.
Flavors of Porto - The Food & Wine Experience This tour is based in Porto but includes a helicopter ride across the river, allowing you to see the traditional vineyards from above before making a stop at Quinta da Pacheca where you can learn the history of winemaking and enjoy a tasting. More than just wine, this tour includes a visit to an organic, urban tea farm and a stop at the famous Arcádia Chocolate Store. Read more ...
If this tour does not fully meet your expectations, contact us and we can help plan your perfect Douro Valley wine vacation!