In Northern Portugal, our next road-trip stop was Douro Valley, one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world and a UNESCO Heritage Site since 2001. With hairpin bends, the road winds itself into the region like ribbons. This was against a rolling landscape of deciduous trees, olive groves and terraced vineyards. The Douro river, at almost 900km in length, is the beating heart of the valley, with the river cultivating farms, generating hydro-electricity and providing a springboard for tourism ventures such as sightseeing cruises.
Using park4night, we stumbled across Quinta Da Padrela, a family-run vineyard producing wine and small batches of olive oil. The farm consisted of an ‘old’ and ‘new’ vineyard. Together the vineyards grew 34 varieties of grapes across 12 hectares of terraced landscape. Jose, whom runs the winery with his two siblings, informed us that all of the harvesting is done by hand every Autumn.
Jose welcomed us very warmly upon arrival at Quinta da Padrela (Quinta means country estate). He informed us that there were no customers staying at the guesthouse at present, therefore we were welcome to use the on-site swimming pool if we wanted to. He recommended two villages that we could walk to, Barcos and Tabuaco. With cobbled streets, ancient churches and an abundance of lemon trees, both villages gave a rustic introduction to rural life in Portugal away from the double-edged sword of tourism.
Jose informed us that there were fruit trees which we were welcome to pick from on the farm. Arriving in the late afternoon, we donned our walking boots and hiked amongst the grapevines, in curious pursuit of the fruit! We noticed that at the end of each row of grapes, was a cherry tree. Alex explained how a lot of farms have sacrificial plants to protect the harvest. We saw succulent, dark and ready to pick cherries, as we keenly filled an old fruit bag with the delicious berries.
After a peaceful nights’ sleep on the farm, we scheduled a free wine tasting with Jose the following afternoon and we were joined by a couple from Estonia for the session. We were presented with a delicious spread of locally produced charcuterie, cheese and bread to accompany the wine, port and olive oil.
Starting with the virgin olive oil, Jose explained how the farm harvested only 4 tonnes of olives, which wasn’t enough produce to export. The harvesting was done by ‘getting a big stick and banging the olives out of the tree‘. Quinta da Padrela are able to yield just 800 cartons of olive oil, which is then sold exclusively to customers whom visit the farm directly. We sampled the virgin olive oil which clung to the bread appealingly, the taste was luscious and the best olive oil I’ve ever had. I didn’t know that olive oil could have such a rich and appealing taste, prior to sampling Quinta da Padrela’s home produced one.
From there, we sampled 1 white wine, 3 red wines and a glass of port. Each glass varied from refreshing and light, to full-bodied and fruity (although this is from the view of a non-drinker!).
From witnessing the small scale production to walking amongst the grapevines, Quinta Da Padrela provided a warm and wonderful welcome to both hotel and camper-van guests alike. Jose was humourous, sweet natured and knowledgeable and after a couple of glasses of wine, the dreaded topic came up: “British eh? Tell me, what is going on with Brexit?” 😉
- Like most travellers, I was originally going to book a wine tasting at a vineyard recommended by Lonely Planet or Timeout. However, the rustic stay on a small, family run farm was truly a experience to remember!
- We found Quinta Da Padrela on the park4night App, the vineyard provides a flat area of grassland near lime trees to stay free of charge for guests with camper-vans.
- There was free wi-fi and there is complimentary wine tasting available at 11:00AM and 3:00PM everyday. We brought some olive oil and wine to take with us and the produce was very reasonably priced and excellent quality (a lot of goods starting from 8 EUR).
- With your stay at the vineyard, you can take a 30 minute walk over to the two villages of Barco and Tabuaco. In Barco, you can enjoy a 1 EUR coffee at a small Portguese snack bar with one of the most outstanding views of the Douro Valley. In Tabuaco, there are restaurants and cafes and you can buy fresh bread from there.
- Afterwards, we drove to Pinhao and went on a 1hr cruise with Magnifico Douro, originally we were going to opt for the 2hr experience but this was fully booked. The 1hr cruise is more then enough time on the boat to take in the views. It is 10 EUR for 1 hour and 20 EUR for a 2 hour cruise and you can purchase the tickets on the day or online.
- If you have any questions, please feel free to comment here or email me.