Page 0116

114 | squaremeal.co.uk

F

or many drinkers, Santa Claus and

Port have something in common -

they only appear at Christmas. While

it's hard to imagine Santa in many

guises and employed all year round,

Port is the gift that keeps on giving.

To get a real sense of its diversity, head to

its homeland in Portugal.

Start your trip o in Porto, a small city

that stretches up a steep hillside

from the mouth of the Douro

river. Ancient churches, shopping

streets and lots of little squares

make for pleasant ambling, while

on the opposite bank, Vila Nova

de Gaia is home to dozens of Port

lodges - the ageing warehouses

where Port rests in humid cellars before

being shipped around the world.

The lodges all have dierent personalities

and it's worth visiting more than one. From

Ramos Pinto's original o…ces with ancient

typewriters and saucy old adverts to

Graham's cool pintxos bar, there's a Port for

every storm. Plot your next move with a white

Port and tonic and dig in to snacks on sticks.

For a more formal dinner, the restaurant

at The Yeatman hotel holds a Michelin star

and amuse-bouches come in test tubes

(sardine cocktail) or as lollipops (foie gras and

white chocolate). The restaurant's Wine Book

features more than 1,200 wines and considers

itself to be one of the most comprehensive

Portuguese wine lists in the world. Up the

road, Vinum prides itself on its meat, and you

can watch through a picture window into

the kitchen as chefs turn hunks of beef.

Down the Douro

After a day or two in the city, get back to

nature. The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World

Heritage site, not just for its outstanding

beauty but for the centuries of work put in by

man to shape the terraces from hard schist in

order to make the landscape workable. This

landscape - along with the Port lodges in

Porto - makes Port and Douro wines part

of the Discover the Origin campaign, which

champions products with provenance and

speci—c production methods.

Miles of terraces wrap neatly around the

hills to provide platforms for farming grapes

and all manner of other produce, including

olives. Port, reds, whites and rosés

are all made here, and a great many

wine and Port quintas (farms) are

open to the public. From huge

visitor centres to organic producers

and small operations, you can

hike, cycle, drive, sail, or take the

train to discover the Douro.

Head for the small town of Pinhão, about

two hours by car or train from Porto and a

great base for river trips, hikes and quinta

visits. From Pinhão, you can walk to Quinta

de la Rosa, but take a taxi if you have luggage

- there are hills aplenty. There's a daily 'just

turn up' tour of the quinta at 11am, complete

with a tasting of two wines and three Ports

for €3. Stay here (there's a selection of

From full-bodied reds to crisp whites, old tawnies and even Port cocktails,

the wines and Ports of the Douro Valley are worth exploring

WORDS LUCY BRITNER

voyage of discovery MAIN PORT PHOTO: ROB LAWSON

MILES OF TERRACES WRAP NEATLY

AROUND THE HILLS TO PROVIDE

PLATFORMS FOR FARMING GRAPES

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