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How to Maximize Your Wine Experience in the Douro Valley

Maximize Your Wine Experience in the Douro Valley

Portugal’s Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. It’s also Portugal’s most famous and popular wine region, home to port, the delicious fortified wine,

and known for its beautiful terraced landscape. No wonder it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The region dates back to the Romans, who created the terracing. There are more than 120 grape varieties in the Douro Valley. While there are 30,000 grape producers, only 500 make wine, and only about 100 wineries, called quintas, are open to the public.


While one can spend several days in the region, it’s an easy day trip from the city of Porto. Either way, you can maximize your wine experience in the Douro Valley. Here’s our guide on how.


1.      Research the Winery Experiences and Any Tour Operators Carefully


While one can take the train from Porto to the Douro Valley, it may limit the wineries you can get to. We prefer to take a tour (and let someone else do the driving), but wine tourism is growing in the region, so choosing from the many tours can be tricky.


To maximize your wine experience in the Douro Valley, we highly recommend researching the different tours and asking about the specific wine experiences offered. The first time we visited the Douro Valley we didn’t do that, and while we were on a nice small group tour, the wine tastings themselves were held in large rooms with a lot of other tour groups at the same time. It was very impersonal and there was no opportunity to ask questions about what we were sampling. One wine tasting even featured a staff member walking around in a kitschy costume (that winery, albeit in a lovely location, still features an employee in costume during the tasting).


This time around we knew better and did our homework. It paid off:  We ended up having a fantastic tour with Jorge Porfirio through Oporto Road Trips.


To maximize our wine experience in the Douro Valley, we visited three different kinds of wineries: one old winery that specializes in port, one larger but still family-owned winery that produces both port and still table wine, and a newer winery dedicated to still table wine.


Vieira de Sousa


The first winery we visited was Vieira de Sousa, a small family-owned winery that has been producing port wine for five generations.  The winery, near the village of Regua, continues to focus on port but also now produces some table wine. Our guide, Margarita, told us that the winery is one of several that still uses the traditional foot-stomping grape-crushing process for some of the wines. For the first two hours, the stomping is very serious, almost “military style.” After that, the stomping goes “freestyle” with dancing, singing, drinking, and people playing musical instruments. (we didn’t even learn this tidbit about Douro wineries the first time we toured the region).   


The winery is in an old port wine production and aging cellar that has been restored. After a tour, we enjoyed a private tasting in the winery’s 100-year-old rustic tasting room made of shist, a coarse-grained metamorphic rock with layers of different minerals.


 We sampled:


 A light dry white port, limited edition 😊++

A fine white port 😊😊

A 10-year-old tawny port 😊😊+

A ruby port reserva 😊😊+

Maximize Your Wine Experience in the Douro Valley

Quinta Do Bomfim


For a completely different experience, we visited Quinta Do Bomfim near the town of Pinhau. It’s part of Symington, the biggest wine company in the Douro wine region, but it’s still family-owned and managed currently by the fourth and fifth generations. It’s the only Symington winery open to the public in the Douro Valley.


The winery is relatively small, and we were the only visitors. After viewing its museum, we enjoyed our wine tasting in a beautiful glass-enclosed room overlooking the Douro River. 

Maximize Your Wine Experience in the Douro Valley

We tasted:


White Altano, a still wine 😊++

Red Altano, also a still wine 😊😊

Port, which came from sister winery Grahams 😊😊


Quinto Do Cume


The third winery we visited was Quinta Do Cume on a hill above the village of  Provesende  (cume means “summit”). It’s a small (25 hectares) family place that specializes in still wine.


While this is a newly built winery that uses modern technology, it also uses the traditional Portuguese foot-stomping method of grape crushing for some of its wines.


After a tour of the winery with Henrique, we enjoyed another private tasting, in a living-room-like tasting room right next to the vineyards, accompanied by olive oil and bread. We sampled:


Branco Reserva 😊😊

Tinto Reserva 😊😊

Grand Reserva Tinto 😊😊 

Alicante Bouschet, only made when the winemaker decides it’s worthy 😊😊+

Maximize Your Wine Experience in the Douro Valley

2.      Eat Somewhere Local, Off the Beaten Path


A lot of the wineries in the region have restaurants on their premises. That’s certainly convenient, and I’m sure they’re good. However, another way to maximize your wine experience in the Douro Valley is to dine somewhere wonderful and unique.

One of the highlights of our tour with Jorge was lunch, on a hilltop outside of the

picturesque village of Provesende, in a tiny undiscovered restaurant called Vista D’ouro. It’s

Maximize Your Wine Experience in the Douro Valley

so local it apparently doesn’t even have a website or social media presence. On the building there’s only a small sign indicating that it’s a restaurant. It used to be a school; there is still a chalkboard and other school paraphernalia around.


We were the only patrons. After a welcome glass of muscatel next to the fireplace, we were served a delicious feast that included olives, bread, olive oil, salad, two kinds of sausage, pumpkin and carrot soup, codfish (the national dish) with vegetables, pork with potatoes, and pudding, all accompanied by generous pourings of white and red Douro wine. This was a fabulous little find.


3.      Squeeze in a Few Non-Winery Gems


To further maximize your wine experience in the Douro Valley, venture beyond the wineries to get a fuller flavor of the area. The Douro Valley has its share of additional sights worth a visit, depending on your preferences, including several national parks and boat tours down the Douro River.


The pretty village of Amarante, the capital of the Vinho Verde wine region, is on the way to the Douro Valley from Porto. It's full of history and worth a detour.


We also recommend stopping in the town of Pinhau to see the incredible tiles adorning the walls of – of all things – the tiny train station. The rows of tiles depict the beautiful Douro Valley landscape. Another little-known but great find! 

Maximize Your Wine Experience in the Douro Valley

We hope that these tips on how to maximize your wine experience in the Douro Valley help you get the most out of your visit. Saúde! (“cheers” in Portuguese).


Do you have any additional wineries in Douro Valley you recommend?  Let us know!  We’re at


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