Travel Guide to Portugal

Douro: A Portuguese Region Sprinkled with Pixie Dust

By Ryan Opaz

Dreams can be silly. Not the kind that leave you befuddled in the morning, wondering if you’re awake or asleep, but the type that remain on your “maybe one day” wish list. I had a dream. From the moment I learned about how Port wine was made, I wanted to climb into the lagars and earn my “purple foot” badge. Today, I’m proud to say that I finally did it! Granted, it was the “tourist version”, sans the 3 hour stomp and the strict discipline in how we marched, but at least my friends and I on the #Douro12 tour did get sticky. Very sticky.

Dreams are inherently different from reality. While we were visiting Quinta de Leda, part of the Sogrape group of wineries, we spent the day picking Touriga Franca, destemming each grape by hand, and eventually stomping our way through some “professionally picked” Touriga Nacional in a new modern granite lagar. I knew the routine. I knew the science; grapes are crushed more gently by human feet, yadda, yadda, yadda. I knew that the extraction of color was of utmost importance. I also knew that once finished, the grapes would end up in a tank, fermenting for a short time before being fortified so as to become the Port wine we all know and love.


What surprised me, however, was the stickiness. I can’t give you a logical reason as to why, it just did. Grapes need very high sugar levels so as to create alcohol, and in the case of Port, sweetness. I knew the science , but I never expected the intense stickiness that occurs when you’re feet and hands come in contact with the grapes. You can’t avoid it. It clings to you. My cell phone, which I used to capture the experience for posterity still has a faint tackiness to its casing, something that seems to never fade.

We all know wine can be magical, capable of riling up gentle feelings or intense emotions. It’s my belief this is why wine regions tend to be so beautiful. Grapes soak up and transfer a bit of the local magic, in trace amounts, which slowly infuses into every person uncorking a bottle in faraway lands. In my opinion, the Douro benefits from a surplus of magic. From the winding river to the sloping hills there’s an uncanny shimmer to the land. They tell me it’s the schistous soil reflecting tiny sparkles of sun; and maybe they’re right, but I think it must have more in common with pixie dust.

Come November, Catavino is going to share some of the stories and lessons we learned during the 2012 Douro harvest. We’ll attempt to answer your questions, pay heed to your comments, and hopefully provide you the motivation to head out and buy a bottle of Douro wine. But most importantly, we’re going to try to make the Douro and its wines a bit stickier in your minds. Many people think Port wine is for holidays, and I won’t argue that; however, Port wine can be enjoyed any and every day. A small nightcap while reading a book, watching a movie, or just watching the world go by from your front porch can change an average day into a spectacular one!

If you have a Douro wine, or Port wine story and you want to share it with us, we want to know about it. Just email us at [email protected]. We’re looking for content of all types. From first person encounters with the Douro Valley, to stories or moments of sharing bottles with friends. Starting November 1st we are going to dig into the Port wine, the Douro table wines and the magic that surrounds them.

Join us. I think it’s going to be fun!


Also follow along on the sites of my travel companions: Wine Folly, Thirst for Wine, Wine Passionista, Urban Travel Blog 

Special thanks to the IVDP for making this content possible.

Feature Tours

Porto Walking Food Tour

This delicious food tour is more than a culinary experience, it’s a love letter to Porto highlighting

Pastry Tour of Portugal

No matter where you travel in Portugal, you can always find plenty of Pastelerias, the source of mouthwatering

Douro Valley Premium Wine & Food Tour

On this luxury day tour, you’ll revel in the Douro Valley’s creased and folded mountain slopes,

Since 2005, Catavino has been exploring the Iberian Peninsula
looking for the very best food and wine experiences.

Since 2005, Catavino has been exploring the Iberian Peninsula looking for the very best food and wine experiences.

Catavino is the best place to learn about travel, food
and wine in Portugal and Spain.

%d bloggers like this: