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Sunny Portugal was the destination for the Club's Autumn Tour. Club Administrator Anita Kaur provides an overview.
A great itinerary on our trip to Portugal included visits to food and wine producers, and a good helping of culture too, all geared to ensuring members could enjoy each other’s company in the wonderful Portuguese sunshine.
What we didn’t plan, was arriving in Portugal at a time of major wildfires raging across four regions of the country. Caroline our tour guide, advised on our arrival that one was burning 45 kilometres from where we were staying on our first night. The atmosphere smelt of burning vegetation with resultant poor visibility. We were also told that winds were blowing in the opposite direction and rain was forecast. The group decided…..that the trip must go on……The rain lucky arrived to clear the air during our first planned visit.
Over the following enjoyable days we visited wine growing estates and lodges, with tours of the vineyards and wineries, plus tastings, including both Tawny Port and Vintage Port wine.
We saw magnificent terraced vineyards in the Douro Valley, where the wines are aged, blended and bottled, with fantastic tour guides full of enthusiasm and great knowledge. They explained in depth how wine is produced traditionally, with a line of 20 men and woman crushing the grapes for hours, to create great Port and Douro wines. Members particularly enjoyed the in-depth chats with the tour guides.
One interesting fact we learned was that the Symington family – with Scottish, English and Portuguese ancestry – has been in the Douro for five generations, since 1882, and is now the largest vineyard owner in the Douro Valley, with over 1000 hectares, comprising 27 individual vineyards, known as ‘quintas’.
The tour started on Monday with a visit to Quinta do Noval, where our wonderful tour guide even demonstrated how grapes were traditionally crushed by the clean feet of the local people – who would be singing, dancing and drinking wine as they crushed the grapes. Dinner was enjoyed here, before retiring to The Vintage House hotel overnight.
On Tuesday we first visited Quinta Bom Retiro, part of the Symington estate. Here grapes are now crushed by machinery (see photo), a most interesting process. Members enjoyed a wine tasting with a beautiful view of the vineyards.
Next it was off to Ramos Pinto, one of the oldest farmhouses in the region. Another opportunity for wine tasting! Thomas our tour guide –half Portuguese, half English – was extremely knowledgeable. Members had great conversations with him over a relaxed luncheon.
Thomas mentioned that if it rains before harvest it tend to lead to very good wine. This year it was too hot, with not much rain. Interestingly, most of the women in our group enjoyed the aged 10 year-old Tawny Port, while the men enjoyed the 30 year-old Tawny Port wine.
We were very lucky with the weather, the sun was out, so we were able to appreciate the wonderful views and enjoy Port wine on the terrace at Ramos Pinto, where the grapes are all still hand-picked by local people. This estate proved particularly popular, as the wine was traditionally made and was felt to taste the best.
Our third visit of the day was to Quinta dos Murcas, for more port wine tasting, with fine views of the vineyards, and a truck ride up to the vineyards for a closer inspection. The vineyards are spread over altitudes of 110 to 300 metres, with livestock used for weed control.
We then made our way back to the city of Oporto, for drinks on arrival then dinner at the Yeatman Hotel overlooking the city of Oporto. Our sumptuous meal was prepared by 2-Michelin Star chef, Ricardo Costa, and his team. Very nice indeed!
On Wednesday we headed first to Graham’s Port Lodge, where wine tasting included their famous Tawny Ports. Lunch at their Vinium Restaurant was in beautiful weather, with members able to enjoy wine outside on the terrace. We also viewed a video and tour, witnessing barrels stored in the cellars with a range of different wine from different years and ages.
The afternoon was free in Oporto, before re-gathering in the evening for another wine tasting and tour of Taylor’s Port Lodge. Again very interesting, with dinner at the lodge. Members found they were learning new things every time they visited these estates and lodges.
On Thursday Oporto’s old tram was our conveyance for a private tour full of fascinating insights into this ancient city. Members very much enjoyed this, especially the visit to the beautiful ancient Factory House. Completed in 1784 the building was originally designed as a private club for the British port shippers trading from the city. Today it is home to the British Association. Members really loved this place.
After a wonderful lunch it was off to the airport – with carry-on bags clinking as Port Wine souvenirs headed for all four corners of the UK.