There really is nothing in the world quite like heading to the Douro Valley and visiting the vast array of Douro and Port wine producers nestled across the steep terraced vineyards. Yet, it surprises me how so many of these producers won’t open their doors to the public, despite the increasing number of consumers eager to taste their wines before purchasing. For wine enthusiasts who want to make the most of their Douro trip, it’s important to know which wineries are welcome to the public year round instead of playing Russian Roulette.
That being said, I’m happy to start you off with a winery you can count on: Quinta do Portal. Earlier this month, my parents and I visited their winery, without a prior appointment, and had a wonderful time. If you don’t mind winding your way up the mountain (which you have to do for most wineries here) from Pinhão on the way to Sabrosa, you’ll find Quinta do Portal perched close to the top of Cima Corgo, in Celeirós do Douro. For such a remote area, it’s not only welcoming to encounter a large tasting room and wine shop with tours open to the public 7 days a week, but also a beautiful 12-room guesthouse and gourmet restaurant, Casa das Pipas, available for extended stays of wining and dining – showing that even the toughest of logistics doesn’t stop them from closing their doors! And rest assured, that Quinta do Portal will make your journey worthwhile.
Four years ago, they built a 2 level cellar that reaches 9 meters below ground, constructed with a base of concrete and steel mixed with natural, locally sourced schist and cork. The cellars were designed by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira, a Pritzker Prize laureate, famous for The Boa Nova Tea House in Porto (1963), the Faculty of Architecture (1987–93), and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art (1997).
The Quinta offers guided tours down into this fascinating structure, where they have a mix of both new French Oak (for reds) and Russian Oak barrels (for their Extra Dry White Port) as well as a handful of the very large 100 + year old original barrels from the estate. The guides are also savvy to point out the interesting architectural nuances incorporated into the structure by the designer. This innovative creation has led the Quinta to winning the 2012 Global Winner in Best of Wine Tourism in the Architecture and Landscapes category.
On the ground floor of the cellar is Quinta do Portal’s large tasting room and wine shop where they offer a wide variety of tasting options to suit every palate. And I do mean every palate. From sweet to dry, full bodied to light, it would be trying to walk away unsatisfied. Check with the winery for discounts on wine. And if you’re keen to “make your own blend”, the option is available for groups.
We started with the 2009 Reserva Tinto (red) made from a blend of Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz with a hint of Touriga Franca aged in new French oak for 9 months, which was incredibly pleasant and showed considerable ageing potential. Next, the Moscatel do Douro, which they call their “White Moscatel” – a much lighter version of their Moscatel Reserva and the typical known Moscatels I was used to having from the Setúbal Peninsula down south, it was very light and refreshing for a fortified wine and reminded me a bit of a late-harvest wine. The Quinta recommends drinking the White Moscatel as an aperitif or mixed cocktail with tonic, mint and lemon on ice for the warmer months. Finally we tasted their 10-year Tawny Port, aged 4 – 7 years in new French oak, which was nice and nutty like a good tawny should be and would be delicious drizzled over macadamia nut ice cream.
Overall, it was their White Moscatel that stole my heart, in that it was a style I have never tried before and flavor that took me off guard – in a very good way! We also bought the Late-Harvest, which we’re looking forward to testing with Thanksgiving dessert!
As for a future visit to Quinta do Portal, when our schedule is a bit more flexible, I would love to stay a few nights at their Casa das Pipas – awarded the Best of Wine Tourism in 2007 and a current rating of “Wonderful” (9.1 out of 10) on Booking.com I think will definitely be worthwhile for enjoying some breathtaking views of the vineyards and surrounding mountains while enjoying some fine-dining Portuguese cuisine paired with their delicious wines.
Visits and Daily Tastings
At 11h, 14h30 and 16h30
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