Saturday, March 19, 2011

Portugal Part 5: The Douro & Visit to Quinta Nova

Like I said in the Portugal Part 4 post, visiting the Port cellars in Oporto without a trip to the growing region in the Douro, would be like visiting a museum of flight and aeronautics, but never flying in an airplane. You miss a huge part of the experience if you don’t go to the Douro. Sure there are pictures and videos of the harvest in the port houses, but nothing compares to seeing the steep vineyards up close and personal.

The Douro wine region has some of the most astounding scenery in the world with stacked terraces of granite and schist that form undulating curves as they follow the contours of the river. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s humbling to realize the amount of work it takes to get those grapes off the vines and into the wine on your table.

But there’s more than grapes in those hills and valleys along the Douro—there are 5 star hotels, guesthouses and some top-notch restaurants too. One stand-out for both wine and hospitality is Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo located just outside of Pinhão on the north bank of the river. Click on the slideshow below for a little taste of Quinta Nova.

The Lodge:
The property offers spectacular views over the vineyards and across the river. The original 18th century manor house has been converted to a hotel. A chapel on site across from the lodge dates from 1764, and honors Nossa Senhora do Carmo--the patron saint of the original riverboat crews.

The 11-room lodge has a relaxed family atmosphere and although we were there in the winter, the pool and hiking trails top my reasons for plotting a return visit in warmer months. But my number one reason to return would be for the wine. It’s literally “Come for the wine--and stay for everything else!"

The Wines:

The table wines at Quinta Nova were my favorite of the entire trip. Quinta Nova sold their port wine business a while ago, and now focus on table wines. There are so many great wines coming out of the Douro, but I ended up ordering Quinta Nova selections each time I found them on wine lists during the rest of my stay in Portugal.

A remarkable part of the program at Quinta Nova is the all woman crew. The harvest is carried out completely by hand and on foot in the narrow terraces where no machines can pass. Men assist during the harvest to transfer the heavy baskets of grapes to containers and trucks, but women harvest the grapes and do all the hand sorting as well. The Quinta Nova philosophy is that the women have a finer sensibility for detecting the quality of the fruit and do a better overall job in these tasks.

At the crush pad, the juice is cooled before pressing to avoid shock in temp changes. Everything is handled with a gentle touch and Quinta Nova is one of the only wineries in the entire region to have a Portuguese designed treading machine that simulates foot crushing by the vignerons. The machine is fully adjustable and can be programmed to recreate the precise treading tempo desired for each stage of the crush. As it becomes harder to find people to do the treading work, the machine enables the process to be replicated and ensures the continuity and consistency of the crush.

Quinta Nova is also part of a new tourism alliance called alltodouro, in partnership with Greengrape, that is working to develop integrated programs with the restaurants, vineyards, hotels and museums in the area. You can check out the tourism packages at or by contacting Alberto Chaves of Greengrape directly--


  1. Enjoying the Portugal posts, Marcy. Wine Pleasures indeed!

  2. Thanks Frank- You would love the Quinta Nova wines. Truly exceptional. More post yet to come. So much to cover about Portugal--beyond the Port it's known for. Portugal was full of really remarkable wines.

  3. I figured the Port would be coming - I bet you guys tasted some great ones! I must admit that I'm waiting for the 'Bloggers on a Drunken Stooper' pictorial post... :)

  4. I'm saving the "Blogger roundup" for the last post. ;-)



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