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What is Port wine?

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What is Port wine ?

What is Port wine and how do you start by understating how to choose a Port to buy is what you will find in this post.

Port wine is probably one of the most know products from Portugal.

Is kind of a Portuguese icon.

Some people like it, some people don’t. What about you? Do you like it?

The truth is, there are so many kinds of this particular wine that you might never have tasted the one you love.

Maybe you tasted a Ruby with no idea there was a Tawny port or even a white.

Let’s map port wine so you can have a better understanding of this lovely wine.

You can call port wine or just Port.

Tawny, LBV, Ruby, Vintage, … these are some of the names that will see on the bottles.

What is the Port?

In the research I did, the definition of port wine that pleased me most is on Wikipedia and says “Port wine (also known as Vinho do Porto,…, and often simply Port) is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal.” (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_wine)

Is Port so different from a regular table wine? If so, why is that?

Good … very simple, just drink one and drink the other and you will see big differences.

Port is sweeter and has higher alcohol content than table wine.

Regular red table wine has around 14% alcohol and a red Port around 20 or 22% alcohol.

As you already know, Port can only be produced in the region of the Douro Valley.

To produce Port or Douro table wine the same types of grapes are used. The production method is what makes the big difference between the two wines.

The whole process of picking and treading the grapes is equal to Port and table. The difference starts during the fermentation period.

To produce Port there will be a shorter fermentation period of 2 or 3 days and to produce table wine a regular fermentation period of 6 or 7 days.

Then, in the case of Port, to stop the fermentation process a certain quantity of wine spirits is added to fortify the wine.

As a result, we will get a sweeter wine because not all the sugar was transformed into alcohol and this wine will have a higher alcohol content because it was added wine spirits.

These wine spirits are neutral, colorless, with a 77% alcoholic content, it is generally added at the rate of approximately 115 liters of spirits per 435 liters of wine in fermentation, although this ratio can vary.

In relation to the types of Port, let us start by understanding how do they to relate to each other and then we will see some details of each category.

Are there several types of Port?

Yes, there are several types of Port.

Are they so different to the point of a regular person to feel the differences?

Ooohhh Yes.

Between the various categories, there are significant differences.

Nothing better than drinking different categories and feel the differences – this is the best part, naturally.

My intention is only to give a general idea about Port and help those who want to choose a bottle to take home or offer.

However, it is always good to taste them all – eheheheheh – that is the true choice of the knowledgeable.

What kind of categories for Port? 

Red – on the red’s you can find two different families:
Ruby and here you can find: Ruby, Recently, LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) and Vintage;
Tawny and you will find: Tawny, Tawny Reserve X number of years (10, 20, 30 or 40) and Harvesting

White – rated in accordance with its sweetener lever:  very sweet called “Lágrima”, “Sweet”, “Dry” and “Extra dry.

Rosé – with only one classification

In a future post, I will give you some insight about each kind of Port  I mentioned above.

There are a lot of pieces of information on the Internet about this subject but the biggest problem is to choose what to read.

I strongly recommend consulting the website https://www.ivdp.pt/ .

The IVDP is the Port and Douro Wines Institute and there you will find very good information.

To learn more in detail about the various categories of port wine can go directly to https://www.ivdp.pt/pagina.asp?codPag=64&codSeccao=2&idioma=1

Now it’s time to stop writing about it and go drink port wine.

I will drink a Tawny 10 years of Quinta de La Rosa, anyone with me?

“Saúde” (means health in Portuguese)

David Monteiro

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Pinhão, the heart of Port wine

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Pinhão, the heart of Port wine

A wooden boat ride and Port wine tasting? I can get used to it 🙂

In a previous article, I was describing some suggestions about how to visit Porto in one day, what to do and what to see there.

Now I will be focusing in a suggestion as to what to do on a second day while staying lodge at Porto, like you, only had two days to visit the area.

Before carrying on with this subject, please bear in mind that this is a suggestion and I do not believe one can really know Porto and surroundings in two days, not a chance.

But … life is what it is and you may only have two days so you better do the best you can with the time you have.

If you spent one day in town so why not visit a place outside? And, in this case, taking a train to Pinhão, the heart of Port wine.

Well, let me describe to you a possible plan.

09:10 – Take the train at São Bento Train Station towards Pinhão
If you did the suggested walk of the previous post you know already where the São Bento train station is, if you don’t so please download the map and look for number 1.

09:10 / 11:41 – The train ride São Bento until Pinhão
It’s the same train from the beginning till the end, you will not need to change trains, it will cost you 10,95€ (Feb 2017) and yes it will take you 2h31m to get there but it will worth your time, the train goes mostly along the Douro river and it’s a lovely ride.

11:41 – You should leave at Pinhão.
12:00 / 14:00 – Rabelo boat ride
Rabelo boats are the traditional wooden boats that used to transport Port wine along the river to Porto or Gaia. Nowadays they are used for touristic rides and it can be a great experience. You can book in advance your ride at Magnífico Douro a local small company at Pinhão that does this kind of tours and that I recommend.

14:30 / 16:30 – Port wine tasting
After your boat ride, it’s time to taste a few Port wines and learn about the differences between a Ruby and a Tawny or what kind of white Port’s there are. You can book your visit at Quinta do Bonfim or Quinta de La Rosa. Two very different wine farms at a walkable distance from the boat.

18:19 / 20:45 – It’s time to return to Porto and you can take the train back to town.
Please verify the train schedule and prices at www.cp.pt

I know I didn’t mention a place to have lunch or even described the differences between the wine farms. That will be a matter for another post.

Stay tuned and have fun.

David Monteiro

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What to do and what to visit at Porto in one day?

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What to do and what to visit at Porto in one day?

The most common answer you will have when asking such question to a “tripeiro” is: “you can’t”.

“tripeiro” – the natives of Porto are known in Portuguese as “tripeiros”

You will understand that the answer results from loving too much the city and when you will visit it you will easily get the reason why, it’s a gorgeous city, very photogenic in fact.

However, sometimes the reality is that we only have one day so we will have to cook with the potatoes we have.

By reducing the time to just one day we will have to select only a few places to go in a wide variety of interesting sites.

My suggestion for you is: a morning walk, a lunch with products from a local market and a monument/museum visit during the afternoon.

Does it seems like a plan?

Yes, it will be a busy day.

Morning walk in Porto:

Please download a map that will guide you on a walk where you can visit some of the most iconic sites in Porto. Please print the map in an A3 format or use it in your smartphone as a pdf.

Is a 6,5Km (4mi) stroll, perfect for a sunny morning and it will leave you enough time to stop for pictures and a coffee on the way.

The suggested walk will take you to several spots where you can take panoramic photos from Porto.

In a future post, I will describe what can you see during this walk by identifying the numbers you can see written on the map.

Lunch with products from a local market:

During your morning walk, you can visit a market identified as number 3 on the map, is the Bulhão market.

There you will find fresh products like fruits and vegetables and around there you will also find some old traditional groceries shops. I’m sure you can get there plenty of items to arrange a snack for you.

Monument/museum visit:

During the afternoon I suggest you visit one of the following monuments/museums:

Museu Soares dos Reis, Palácio da Bolsa, Torre dos Clérigos, Museum and Gardens of Jardins de Serralves or Casa da Música.

Enjoy your day and do not hesitate to send me an email you case you need to exchange some ideas.

David Monteiro

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River Bestança, beyond the Douro Valley wine region – Portugal

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River Bestança, beyond the Douro Valley wine region – Portugal

The Douro Valley wine region is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world.

Is was established in 1756 by Marquis de Pombal, Portugal’s prime minister during the time of the king D. José I.

In the previous post, I described a walking tour trail I lead once in a while that takes place in the demarcated wine region. It’s a wonderful place where you can see all the landscape covered with vineyards.

However the demarcated region does not cover completely the Douro Valley and there is a part of the valley that was not “affected” by the rules of the demarcated region and the landscape is totally different, although being so close to each other.

The river Bestança valley is a hidden jewel even for Portuguese people. Here the trails are old paths that were used by farmers to access to their farming lands or where they still go with their cattle.

In the river Bestança Valley, you can find both the lifestyle of 100 years ago but also quite interesting hotels, like the case of Hotel Porto Antigo or manor houses that are totally equipped to receive guests.

Diversity is probably one of the strongest characteristics of the Portuguese territory where one do not have to go too far to be in a completely different scenario.

Enjoy.

David Monteiro

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Walking the Douro Valley – Portugal

Walk the Douro Valley trails and paths, Portugal

Walking along the river Douro – Portugal

The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and walking along the river Douro is a unique experience.

From the belvedere of São Salvador do Mundo (Saint Savior of the World), we can see a huge portion of river Douro.

The Belvedere is at 493 m high (1617 feet) at the top of a long slope.

At the top, you can see both river bank’s completely filled with vineyards.

Port wine and table Douro wine are produced here.

Looking around, the river dominates the landscape. Is like a long snake on its way to the ocean.

Almost all we can see from here are steep shores with vineyards.

Is there something else besides vineyards?

In the few little spaces that man is not be able to extract wine from the land, proud olive trees will be found whose fruit will produce one of the best Portuguese olive oils, the Douro Valley olive oil.

In addition to the olive trees, the almond trees stand out in number and, the closer we get to Pocinho, the almond trees become more numerous.

Is in the Algarve and Trás-os-Montes regions where there is a greater abundance of almond trees in Portugal.

The Douro train line.

This is an overwhelming location.

From this high point, a huge number of other summits can be spotted. There are countless mountains around here, spread as far as the human eye can reach.

Down the steep slope, very close to the river, the train slips through the railways. It looks like a toy.

It’s hard to distinguish the train and sometimes it seems like a caterpillar being swallowed by the landscape.

In fact, the train is going into some tunnels existing along the railway.

When the train passes, it always causes for joy and excitement.

I love to imagine what the people inside the train think about the group of walkers who apparently are in the middle of nowhere.

The train stations are perfect locations for brief stops, to eat a snack, and we can also admire the hand-painted tiles.

Porto São Bento, Pinhão and Pocinho are the train stations where you can see wonderful hand-painted tiles.

If you want to know more about the train ride please access here.

About the walks.

You can find many different kinds of walks.

Some of them are quite easy, on paved surfaces,  with wide-open views, as you can see in one or another photo here.

But the walks to the highest points are not easy, especially if you lack training but with some patience and walking slowly you will overcome the strong inclination of the trails.

In the end, at the top of the hill, you will finally get the reward for the effort by looking to these wide landscapes.

I prefer to walk during the first hours of the day.

It’s usually quite pleasant with a cold breeze and even some fog on the water.

Photo opportunities.

The river water condenses in the air, leaving a very slight mist. It gives a mystical ambiance to the Sunrise complementing this idyllic setting.

This is gold for photography lovers.

I can also say that this is a paradise for landscape photography with all sorts of angles.

The weather.

During summer months is very hot.

As the day progresses it starts to get warm reaching 40º C (104ºF) or higher during the summer.

However, early Spring or during the Fall one can have very nice weather.

When walking down towards the river, we will notice an increase in temperature, especially at a half hillside.

We understand why these grapes ripen so early in the season and we understand how life can be so hard around here for those who are harvesting vines.

A large part of these grapes are harvested by hand and, during harvesting season, there are numerous teams of people hired from everywhere to participate in the harvest.

What kinds of wine can we get here?

Port wine and table wine from the Douro region.

In another post, I will detail a bit more matters concerned with the port wine, the wine production, and the harvesting.

What about hand-painted tiles?

There is a long tradition of hand-painted tiles in Portugal and we can find impressive tile works in these train stations.

The train stations of Pinhão and Pocinho are the most impressive, hand-painted tiles wise.

When to visit the Douro Valley?

Between April and the end of May and between mid-September to late October the Douro Valley is just perfect to visit and to walk around.

Anyway, there is no one time better than the other, there are different seasons and with very different scenarios, although this is my favorite months.

Visiting the Douro Valley in September/October you will see the end of the harvesting season. The vines have dark red leaves and the scenario is an impressive spectacle of shades of red and one can take amazing photographs.

The grapes harvesting is probably the most important time of the year and all around you can see people carrying baskets of grapes in a huge frenzy.

What else to do in the Douro Valley?

This is a wine region so wine tastings are to be expected.

If you are at Pinhão, the heart of the Douro Valley, you can try one of the many farms with wine tastings.

Is also a good opportunity to earn more about Port wine and its differences versus still wines.

Suggestion: you can try Quinta do Bomfim for a wine cellar visit.

Enjoying one of the several upscale lodgings is an experience that worth the cost.

A suggestion: Quinta Nova Nossa Senhora do Carmo

In a landscape dominated by the River, the hike could not finish better than with an excellent ride on a Rabelo boat.

The Rabelo boat is the wooden typical boat of the Douro River that was once used to transport the barrels of wine to Vila Nova de Gaia, in front of Porto.

From Vila Nova de Gaia, the wine was then shipped to the rest of the world.

The river waters are usually calm and the Rabelo boat, with its wide hull, is a very stable and comfortable vessel, sailing toward the mouth, to the West.

Ahead of us, the sunset is the end of a fabulous day, a treasure to save.

Suggestion: Magnífico Douro Wooden Rabelo Boats for a boat ride.

Check our tour to the Dour Valley here.

David Monteiro

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Walking in Ervamoira wine farm – Portugal

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Walking in Ervamoira, a wine farm in the Douro Valley, Portugal where they produce Port wine and table wine.

It'spectacular and unexpected to see a planted vineyard where is so warm and so dry that only olive, almond, and fig trees could grow and nothing else can.

The merit belongs to Ramos Pinto the famous Portuguese winemakers.

José Ramos Pinto was looking for a more flat estate to able to have a mechanized vineyard structure and found this estate that, at that time was called Quinta de Santa Maria.

The farm was “re” baptized as Ervamoira, like the book from Suzanne Chantal.

This is one of the warmer and drier areas in Portugal so you may want to avoid the summer months because it will be too hot to walk. During winter it can also be too cold … extreme temperatures, very characteristic of inland regions of the northeast regions.

This area, called Fôz Côa, is quite known due to an impressive set of prehistoric drawings. In case you want to visit the engravings, you will need to go to the Tourist Office at Vila Nova de Foz Côa and get a guided visit.

Remember, above all this is a wine region so taste the wonderful wines you can find here, both table wines and Port wine. I tasted (several times) their white Port wine and is delicious.

A special thanks to Sónia Teixeira the official guide of the Ervamoira and a lovely host.
From Chãs to Ervamoira’s premises is a 7,5 Km walk with 390 m descent (blue line of the map) and from Ervamoira’s premises until Chãs is a 9 Km walk with 375 m ascent (red line of the map), taking into account that you might want to see the engravings in the meantime.

Enjoy yourself.

David Monteiro

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Visiting Portugal – where to go, what to visit?

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Visiting Portugal – where to go, what to visit?

Where to go, what to do when visiting Portugal?

Where to go, what to do when visiting Portugal, must be the question I answer more often in this context.

Of course, the answer will always depend on who is asking. Not everyone enjoys doing the same things.

Not only will depend on individual preferences but also depends on the time and money you have available to spend in this country.

My answer could be very different for those who want to visit Portugal for walking vacations or for those who want to spend some time in Portugal relaxing on the beach or visiting museums.

However, I will try to simplify the idea and try to draw a plan to the visitor who wants to spend some time in Portugal, having active vacations but not necessarily for walking in the countryside.

Will be a plan for a visitor who values visiting areas with some History, values tasting the Portuguese cuisine and local wines, and is also interested in our cultural differences.

I will also consider this visitor prefers to see the sites in a more relaxing way rather than jumping from site to site in a frenetic race … more quality instead of quantity.

In relation to the time length, I will consider two possibilities: 7 days and 14 days.

For both options, I find it fascinating to do the trip from North to South, in which the city of arrival will be Porto and Lisbon the departure city where there are more flight connections with the rest of the world.

7 days: 2-Porto; 1-Guimarães; 1-Fátima/Óbidos; 2-Lisbon; 1-Sintra/Cascais

14 days: 2-Porto; 1-Guimarães; 1-Viana do Castelo; 1-Pinhão (Douro Valley); 2-Coimbra/Fatima/Óbidos; 3-Lisbon; 2-Évora and surroundings; 1-Sintra/Cascais; 1-Setúbal/Tróia/Arrábida

Each of these sites has a remarkable History, different customs, and typical gastronomy and wines to accompany and I will write about these places on this blog.

Join me to tour in Portugal.

David Monteiro