Wel­come to The Douro

his­tor­i­cal Be a guest at 5 of the best vine­yards in North­ern Por­tu­gal

Timeless Travels Magazine - - PORTUGAL - An­drew trav­elled to the Douro as a guest of TAP Por­tu­gal (www.fly­tap.com) and Visit Porto & The North (www. vis­it­por­toand­north). TAP Por­tu­gal flies di­rect from Lon­don Gatwick to Porto 13 times a week, prices start at £44 one way. Tel: 0345 601 0932

Lis­bon and The Al­garve may grab the head­lines but Por­tu­gal’s roots can be found in the ter­raced vine­yards of the Douro Val­ley. One of the world’s old­est de­mar­cated wine re­gions (since 1756), vis­i­tors have been wel­comed for cen­turies, but it’s taken un­til re­cent years for the Dourense to catch-up to eno­tourism. Here, An­drew Day se­lects five ex­tra-spe­cial places to stay, from classy-white­washed quin­tas to a 17th-cen­tury manor house

1) Quinta Nova

‘Quinta’ trans­lates to coun­try es­tate, and this one – set high above the deep green Douro River – is one of Por­tu­gal’s most spec­tac­u­lar. Sur­rounded by an­cient vine­yards, beau­ti­fully pre­served 19th­cen­tury build­ings have been con­verted to a ho­tel of­fer­ing 11 old-world bed­rooms, dec­o­rated with an­tique cup­boards, wooden head­boards and sharply-styled gran­ite bath­rooms with bath­tubs.

Views over the or­chards and vine­yards to the river are mag­nif­i­cent, not least from the in­fin­ity pool, and guests can dine on the bougainvil­lea-clad ter­race, sip­ping Quinta Nova’s white Mirabilis un­til sun­set (no, they are not all for­ti­fied and red in the Douro). Some of the re­gions top hik­ing trails can be eas­ily ac­cessed (the long­est be­ing 2½ hours), and a re­cently opened on site mu­seum ex­hibits a col­lec­tion of vin­tage wine mak­ing gear, col­lated by the Amorim fam­ily who pur­chased the prop­erty in 1999. www.quin­tanova.com

2) Mor­ga­dio da Calçada

In the pint-size hill vil­lage of Provesende, this 17th­cen­tury man­sion has been home to the Vil­las-Boas fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions, and with Manuel very much a hands-on pres­ence, guests are well cared for. The grand up­per-floor rooms have main­tained their ‘en­filade’ par­lours and pe­riod-style fur­ni­ture, as well as its charm­ing chapel, built in hon­our to St. Jerome. A visit to the earthen-floored down­stairs cel­lar – lined with two huge, an­cient port casks - only con­firms the pres­ence of his­tory.

In con­trast, across the court­yard, eight con­tem­po­rary guest rooms have been carved out of stone out­build­ings to pro­vide com­fort with wrought-iron beds and satel­lite TV. Guests can par­tic­i­pate in one of the work­shops, from vine­yards vis­its to cook­ing classes in what used to be the farm work­ers’ kitchen. And, if you’re lucky, Manuel will be there to talk port. www.mor­ga­dio­da­cal­cada.com

3) Vin­tage House Ho­tel

The ho­tel, which had been suf­fer­ing a lit­tle from ne­glect, is now gleam­ing again – like the man­sion of a Por­tuguese Gatsby – af­ter a re­cent re­fur­bish­ment and the ad­di­tion of four mas­ter suites. Bor­der­ing the Douro River in pretty lit­tle Pin­hão, this for­mer 18th-cen­tury wine es­tate has a pres­ti­gious feel with beau­ti­ful por­traits, huge bar­rel lids and wine mak­ing mem­o­ra­bilia adorn­ing the walls. The el­e­gant feel con­tin­ues in the Ra­belo restau­rant – a vaulted for­mer wine cel­lar – serv­ing dishes based on lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, and those look­ing for a pre-din­ner aper­i­tif can re­lax in the his­toric li­brary bar, with its old wooden beamed ceil­ing. The ho­tel backs onto a lovely 19th-cen­tury train sta­tion (which can be reached by steam train from Cam­panha in Porto) and is tiled with im­ages from a wine-maker’s daily life. www.vin­tage­house­ho­tel.com

4) Mon­verde wine ex­pe­ri­ence ho­tel

Ar­riv­ing at Mon­verde is a bit like step­ping into a Bond vil­lain’s lair. Tucked be­hind high stonewalls in ru­ral tran­quil­lity, gates slide open to re­veal a world of de­sign-con­scious lux­ury – but, in­stead of schemes for world dom­i­na­tion the fo­cus here is on fine wines and spa pam­per­ing. Us­ing mostly gran­ite, shale and Por­tuguese pine, lo­cal ar­chi­tect Fer­nando Coelho breathed life into two run-down farm build­ings on Quinta da Lixa’s 75-acre win­ery, trans­form­ing them into a lux­u­ri­ous yet eco-friendly re­treat. Fa­cil­i­ties like a gourmet restau­rant, in­door/out­door swim­ming pool and vino ther­apy spa add a con­tem­po­rary edge to a re­gion well known for its cul­tural her­itage. Bed­rooms are of min­i­mal­ist Scan­di­na­vian de­sign: Arne Ja­cob­sen– style chairs and stream­lined bath­rooms, whilst ter­race views sweep over rows of neat vines, which pro­duce the vine­yards bot­tled bounty. www.mon­verde.pt

5) Quinta do Crasto

Quinta do Crasto is a grand 320-acre es­tate with a his­tory stretch­ing back 400 years. For the past cen­tury, this work­ing win­ery – perched above the Douro River’s north bank amid a patch­work of vine­yards – has been in the fam­ily of Jorge and Leonor Ro­quette, pro­duc­ing some of Por­tu­gal’s finest drops at ac­ces­si­ble prices. A one-and-a-half hour's drive from Porto Airport, the old ter­ra­cotta-roofed Quinta was re­cently turned into a ho­tel and its char­ac­ter pre­served with fam­ily por­traits on the wall, an­tiques and creak­ing wooden floors. The stone ter­race is a con­vivial spot for trad­ing bites of lo­cally pro­duced cheeses, whilst the fa­mous swim­ming pool – de­signed by Pritzker prize-win­ner, Ed­uardo Souto de Moura – ap­pears to nose­dive into the val­ley be­low. Tast­ings are avail­able for wine-seek­ers and if you visit dur­ing har­vest, grapes to tread. www.quin­ta­docrasto.pt

Pre­vi­ous pages: Quinta do Crasto Far left: Grape pick­ers (Image: Visit Porto & the North); Left: Pro­duce on shelves at Quinta Nova; Be­low: Vin­tage House Ho­tel nes­tled in the hills of the Douro Val­ley

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