We--LC and JA--have the good fortune to be in the Douro Valley in Portugal, a stunning area of sloping hills, steep mountains, red-tile roofed houses and miles and miles of terraced vineyards against a backdrop of sunny blue sky. No wonder this is the home of outstanding wines and ports. And no wonder the Wine Enthusiast magazine named this area one of their top 10 wine destinations of the year.
Yesterday we climbed aboard a boat in Porto bound for Pilhao up the winding Douro River. We enjoyed a leisurely, eye-dazzling 11 hour boat trip that included breakfast, Port, lunch, wine, snack, and the pleasure of talking with some warm, inspirational people from Lisbon, who gave us their list of favorite wines from both the Douro and Alentejo areas of Portugal.
Our main Portuguese wine forays so far had been with the vinho verdes (green wines) that we can find easily in the U.S. They are light, slightly bubbly young wines that definitely have a touch of apple. With an alcoholic volume of only 9 to 9.5 percent, they make for an easy refreshing accompaniment for lunch alfresco.
Today at lunch in our splurge of a Pinhao riverside hotel, we tried a bit of three other kinds of Portuguese wines ...a Favaios bubbly Spumante aperitif wine, a white light floral Chardonnay-like wine from three grapes from Quinta do Portal in the Alijo region and a full bodied 2012 red wine from a Douro vintner Manuela that was our favorite. It doesn't get much better than a beautiful wine in a beautiful setting with my favorite travel buddy.
On the boat ride up and then the train trip back along the river, we saw many hillside quintas--wine houses where one can taste the local creations and sometimes even find lodging. We also spotted a few examples of the tile (azulejos) art work that is so prevalent in Lisbon and Porto.
Obrigada, Portugal, for your beautiful country, kind people and fine wines. We look forward to finding Portuguese wines stateside.
And next on our grape exploration? Port. Coming your way soon!