Vineyards in Duoro Valley

PORT-SIDE ON RIO DUORO

THE world’s oldest demarcated wine region, the terraced Duoro Valley, leads upstream to historic Salamanca in Spain, both UNESCO-designated treasures. JOY DODDS reports.


PORTUGAL’S second city, Porto, and the setting-off point for a cruise along the Duoro Valley, of is a feast for the senses - particularly its reds, best sampled in the wine cellars of Cais de Gaia. When a city gives its name to a wine, it’s indicative of the quality produced there.

This is gold-medal maritime country being the birthplace of Henry the Navigator, who launched Portugal’s voyages of exploration. Fittingly, Porto is also the embarkation point for modern-day travellers, with its UNESCO-designated Ribeira district, the old city marked by zigzagging medieval lanes. Before sailing, guests may also visit the 19th century Palácio da Bolsa and hip retail mall, Santa Catarina, returning to the waterfront by cable-car, and savouring the riverside buildings including the spectacular São Francisco church.

The real fun then begins, starting the scenic journey upstream for 60 kms of granite mountains into which have been carved steep terraces planted with centuries-old vines – among the world’s most famous!

En route, there are interesting excursions, including the Duoro Museum, Mateus Palace and famous muscatel vineyards. The centre of port making, Pinhão, sits in a sea of quinta., working farms. From Vega de Terrón on the Spanish border, it is possible to travel overland to university town Salamanca, dating back to the time of Hannibal, its sandstone architecture producing a glow, giving rise to its name, the “Golden City”. It’s not all architecture as the city is also famous for its pata negra and chorizo, not to mention cheese and olive oil, and wild flamenco dancing and song. Other towns along the river include the medieval Barca d’Alva and its 12th century walled village of Castelo Rodrigo.

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