Harvest at an Alto Douro vineyard, Portugal.

The Douro river is wild and tamed, fertile, rich and dust bad. She is the heart, soul and existence force of the place she gives her call to. For 900km, from principal Spain to Atlantic Porto, she pushes and runs, fat,green, inexorable. The Douro area is set the scale of Suffolk but, not like East Anglia, has slightly a metre of flat floor. instead, dizzying mountain slopes are creased and folded and combed with the tens of millionsof vines that make those juicy Douro table wines and its celebrated ports.

traffic have been welcomed right here for centuries but it’s taken till just now for the Dourense vicinity to cotton on to eno-tourism, that glad marriage between journey and tippling. though frequented often by using cashmere-and-smart-slacks travellers, the Douro is also a satisfactory vacation spot for the thirstybut thrifty.

getting to the location can be fun. There are resort boats from Porto, but those appear frequently to be witless, Duplo-like affairs into that you’re tightly packaged and drably excursioned. It’s better by means of farto take the train to Pocinho. that is one of the global’s awesome train rides and, once far from Porto’s concrete suburbs, gives twisting, sighing, hovering riverine perspectives for a good deal of its three-hourcourse.

The bus community shape here on is sketchy; to get the most out of your go to, you’ll need a vehiclefrom Pocinho. however be warned: these roads are for confident drivers handiest. they’re intestinally curly. Climbs are crazily steep. Cliffs ought to be tightly hugged and other automobiles may be kissed. protectionobstacles seem anathema. maximum roads are breathe-in skinny. Heroic cyclists with Hoy-like thighswould possibly enjoy the suffering these roads provide.

hundreds of thousands of warm, difficult hours of guide paintings have gone into terracing andschooling those wonderful hills of schist into vineyards. Neat terraces corrugate each horizon, rows and stairs intricate as cornrows, maps with dwelling contours. The visual effect is mesmerising even earlier than the primary ingesting – sorry, tasting – consultation of Douro wines. And, just like the river belowyou, these periods sail alongside smoothly initially. until you get into those seductive ports.

There are 3 parts to this wine region. Baixo Corgo is westernmost and commonly produces ports to beunder the influence of alcohol young. Its predominant city is Peso da Régua, normally referred to asRégua.

Aerial view of winery terraces and the Douro river in the Alto Douro vicinity
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Aerial view of winery terraces and the Douro river within the Alto Douro vicinity. photograph: Alex Robinson/Getty photographs
the luxury phase of the Douro is Cima Corgo, whose stylish quintas are run through a manicured handful of intermarried wine dynasties, frequently with British and Dutch names and/or branches on their French-polished family timber. Even right here, although, visitors who stray one vineyard away from the principle routes will boggle maximum locals definitely with the aid of being overseas. Cobbly, sleepy Pinhão with its fabulous blue-tiled station, is at Cima’s centre. Then, closest to the Spanish border, is Douroadvanced, the most important vicinity, that is basically national park. It also has the fewest people: theonly town of any size is Vila Nova de Foz Côa, domestic to three,three hundred people.

The Douro is perfect for a protracted weekend, specifically whilst tacked directly to a stay in Porto. butbeware: the wiggly roads suggest distances that look tiddly on the map can take hours to barter. speakingof tiddly, in Baixo Corgo I intention straight for Régua and the wine motel at Quinta do Vallado (doubles from €one hundred including cycle hire), with its 13 cool and mild rooms and (hurray!) all-day wine tastings and bibulous visits to their renowned vineyard. Régua isn’t without delay stunning but has a light and bustling riverfront vibe and the Douro Museum on Rua Marquês de Pombal, wherein €7.50 buys me front and a schooner of port. The museum also affords intensive wine tastings for the unwary and unwise vacationer.

Now wanting a sugar hit, outside the train station I spot aproned women with wicker baskets promotingpaper-twisted rebuçadas, the Douro version of barley sugar. these gasoline my two-minute dignified stagger down Avenida José Vasques Osório to Castas e Pratos (+351 254 323 290). It’s a young-ish andstylish food and drinks hangout in an upcycled railway shed. As anywhere in the region, its wine list isexciting and less expensive (3 courses from €30).

Castas e Pratos in Peso da Régua
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Castas e Pratos in Peso da Régua
however I’m feeling more saggy than sublime, so lunch alternatively on the down-home A Velha Tendinha (around €15 a head, Largo 25 de Abril, +351 254 318 a hundred and sixty). It’s a amazing nearly-riverfront grill joint, and my octopus grelhado is a charry tangle of incredible tentacles. The rest of the day is spent traversing the sheer breadth of wine styles produced by the Douro’s sheer slopes.

Cima Corgo is the most-visited part of the region. across the river from Pinhão, is Quinta do Seixo, in whichthe large Sandeman vineyard does the area’s slickest tours (from €6pp) at its grand quinta. Luís Sottomayor is Sandeman’s head winemaker – fiftyish, wiry and tanned. After an in-intensity “tasting” session, he factorsme lower back to Pinhão to revel in Qualifer (45 Rua António Manuel Saraiva, on fb). that is a tiny fumeiro (smokery) where butcher Fernando – component black-clad ninja, part conjuror, element psychologist,component naturopath – retails a mystical choice of sparkling and smoked meats, plus his personal-baked bread, local cheeses and his daughter’s jams. From those, I bring together the picnic impede of champions and head for the Chapel of São Salvador do Mundo (off EN222-three), close to São João da Pesqueira, a miradouro (point of view) that makes the heart bounce just like the Bonelli’s eagles wheelingunderneath. Luis’s different miradouro tip is a stunner as well. São Leonardo de Galafura, excessive above Régua, additionally has an in-season cafe that serves amazing and maintaining snacks and lunches.

Pinhão railway station, with its conventional blue-tiled walls.
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Pinhão railway station, with its traditional blue-tiled partitions. photo: Alamy
5 of the main new-wave Douro winemakers have banded collectively as the Douro Boys. the sort of is the eccentric, stimulated Dirk Niepoort , whose own family were winemakers when you consider that 1842. Dirk’s wines – both table and fortified – are always exciting and enlightening. Wine has been made at his Quinta de Nápoles at Santo Adrião for the reason that fifteenth century. these days, you flavor in amystery subterranean cellar (ebook ahead on +351 254 855 436, no charge). Over a tasting wherein Icompletely neglect to spit, Dirk explains how the Douro’s schist rock forces the vine’s roots to thrust deep to set up themselves, growing more flavour depth inside the tens of localdisciplinevarieties that passinto his blends. My favored grape is sousão, which quite tons sums up my situation by lunch. this is taken at neighborhood posh eating place document (222 Estrada Nacional, +351 254 858 123), built like a gin palace over the river at Folgosa. observe to self: port at lunch, all at sea all afternoon.

Posh nosh at document eating place, the Douro
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Posh nosh at doc restaurant
On 25-26 June this 12 months, the Douro Boys will preserve their annual Feira do Douro, this year at Niepoort, wherein €10 buys you entrance (and a loose Riedel glass) plus tastings (natch) and a farmers’market.

Dinner is at Dirk’s “mystery” tip: sixteen-seat Papas Zaide (1 Largo de Praça, +351 254 731 899), snoozinginside the pretty hill village of Provesende. here you consume olives dipped in honey (bizarre, but super), sheep’s cheese and exceptional knuckles of melting meat, tinkling the goat bell to your desk for cook Graça to deliveryes! – extra wine. in the square underneath is the in no way-modernised Nineteen FortiesFatima bakery, where craft baker Antonio José bakes handiest one hundred eighty impeccable sourdough loaves an afternoon. Like me, they’re gone via lunchtime. in the identical rectangular is the bonkers Café Arado (no smartphone, opening hours erratic), a winery, bar, craft keep and farm-enforce museum.

The Douro Boys.
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The Douro Boys
additionally in Provesende is the fascinating, easy, self-catering Quinta da Costa (doubles from €65, +351 917 985 956). as an alternative, at river level, there’s the grand Quinta do Crasto (one-night stays only, from €140 a night time, +351 934 920 024), with 4 rooms above the vineyard. One eats, liquids and swims in stylish aristo splendour right here.

There are loads of river tours presented in both Régua and Pinhão. maximum are within the now-motorised vessels that when carried port “pipes” (barrels) all the way down to Porto for maturing. Toexperience much less of a vacationer, ebook a journey on Pipadouro (from €35, +351 939 196 262) which runs two superbly restored Nineteen Fifties wooden launches from the pier at Pinhão. the bigger turned into an admiral’s boat, now bookable for a cosseted night time’s live aboard. drinks glide on board till I notrealize my port from my starboard.

Sampling wine at the annual Feira do Douro.
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Sampling wine on the annual Feira do Douro
lower back in Pinhão, Quinta de Bonfim (+351 254 730 370) has just began providing guided excursions, tastings and captivating, bowered winery lunches. right here, Joe Alvares Ribeiro – chiselled jaw, cleanchinos, ineffable allurelightly insists that I swing as much as the 2street town of Favaios, whereinmoscatel wines are made. The cute, small Museum of Bread and Wine is on Rua Direita, wherein the €1.50access additionally ratings a pitcher of sweet moscatel that smooths out any wrinkles remaining in my morning. approximately 800 metres out of city, at Alto da Portela, an anonymous, unsightlycontemporary residence with a car park at the proper is Padaria Queirós (+351 259 949 514), whereFernanda and her two cousins bake right bread and a stupendous bolo de carne, that’s what each meat pie wants to be whilst it grows up. They’re hot out of the oven around noon.

And with the intention to wilder, empty Douro superior. in contrast to Cima, superior has little visitors,although its roads are infrequently less tortuous. I drive up to the dog-and-donkey village of Parambosnear Carrazeda de Ansíäes, wherein svelte, sprite-like Puri at Doces da Puri (30 Beco de Jaime) producesawesome jams, cookies and pastes in her three hundredyrantique, low-beamed kitchen. The fruit comes from her heavenly organic lawn next door and her tomato-and-port keep deserves a document fame of itsown. Puri’s generosity and power are matchless. After a glass of something adorable, she directs me to Taberna da Helena (Avenida Aquilino Ribeira – beneath the church in Carrazeda) for a sit-down with a platter of chops and a mountain of chips in company with local farm animals farmers.

Niepoort’s Quinta de Nápoles with view over the winery.
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Niepoort’s Quinta de Nápoles
forty minutes from right here, I pause inside the strong medieval hill metropolis of Torre de Moncorvo,wherein my rewards encompass a bag of warm sugar-crunched almonds from a shop contrary the church.near Vila Nova de Foz Côa, Museu do Côa sweetly translates the region’s thousand examples of Paleolithic rock art. A bookable, guided three-hour dusk/night excursion of the art inside the valley below is a snip at €17.

outside Foz, a small and not likely turning takes me down (and, worryingly, similarly down) a steep, twisty, schisty song. My accept as true with is rewarded whilst it promises me to Casa do Rio (from €190 a nightB&B/wine-hotel) in which dynamic Douro Boy João Ribeiro of Quinta do Vallado has constructed a bridge over a dip in his vineyard, and on it a timber inn of six faded, horny rooms. right here I be a part of what feels just like the Douro’s most chic residence birthday celebration: Danish rosewood, placing Cocoon fires, an orchestra of crickets, no neighbours for miles, an infinity pool amid the vines, and the Douro beneathpeaceful and long, robust and particular.

Kevin’s pinnacle guidelines
exceptional for picnics The miradouro at São Leonardo da Galafura, above Régua
• Hidden gem Casa do Rio wine resort close to Foz de Côa
pleasant tasting Niepoort wines and ports at Quinta do Napolés

• Trains run from Porto to Pocinho (€13 each way every way, cp.pt); the simply quite bit starts at Régua. Flights had been provided by means of easyJet, which flies to Porto from Bristol, Gatwick, Luton and Manchester from around £fifty two return. vehicle hire turned into supplied by excursion autos