Visiting the Douro

With its UNESCO World Heritage status, stunning scenery and friendly welcome, the Douro would be a great place for a long-weekend or longer, even for those not interested in wine!

Quite a few quintas have realised the potential for opening their doors to paying guests and are transforming their gracious manor houses into relaxed boutique hotels.

Visitor centres are also becoming more common and during our visit we were delighted to be shown around several.

Graham's 1890 Lodge

This would be a great place to start your voyage into the Douro. In the past, although the wines were made up in the Douro Valley at the quintas, the port wines were sent to Oporto, or more accurately to Vila Nova de Gaia on the opposite bank of the Douro river, to age.

Here the big port shippers like Graham's built enormous warehouses, or lodges, to mature the ports before selling them.

This is where we started our Douro trip with João Vasconcelos of Symington's our guide. He explained how the Symington family had recently renovated the lodge, restoring all the original features, and how it was also still a working cellar, complete with its own cooper.

João explained how the maritime climate and metre-thick stone walls helped to keep a constant temperature in the cellars, ideal for the long ageing of the wines.

The Graham and Symington families have a long history of making wines in the Douro and their new museum charts both families' histories and that of the wines that brought them here. It's well worth a visit.

Pictures from the past: foot treading c. 1930s Transporting  Graham's port by bullock cart in the 1920s

We also saw the new tasting room with its huge windows giving a great view out over the famous two-tier bridge that links Oporto to Vila Nova, before going into the private tasting room for a tasting of tawny ports going back to the 1970s and Graham's impressive range of Douro table wines.

Jo Locke MW about to put the Graham's portfolio through its paces!

What was incredible tasting through tawny ports at, 10, 20, 30, 40+ years old was the way the colours changed. The younger tawnies were reddish brown, the 20 and 30-year-olds had a lighter brown tawny colour while the 40-year-old and 1972 vintage tawny were darker in colour. João explained that this was due to evaporation in barrel and the concentrating of the wine inside

Old tawnies showing their colour

Browse our range of tawny ports >

Graham's have also opened a new restaurant, 'Vinum', giving visitors the opportunity to match food with wine (both table and fortified) - something that seems to be on the increase adding to the appeal for visitors.

Quinta do Bomfim

If you want to visit the vineyards and winery, Symington's have recently opened a visitor-centre at their historic Quinta do Bomfim in the Upper Douro.

Here too there's a small museum with more on the history of wine production in the Douro, and the Symington family's long heritage.

Just one of the items on display in the museum. A demonstration of the megaphone that was used to shout across the Douro river to those working the vineyards on the opposite bank

We watched a video showing how the barrels of wine used to be brought down from the Douro by the famous flat-bottomed barcos rabelos boats. It really was quite a feat not without considerable dangers - the river wasn't dammed until the 1970s for producing hydro-electric power, and the rapids, in places, were treacherous.

The advent of the railway at the end of the 19th century didn't just bring an end to this perilous journey for the wine, but it made life a lot easier for the inhabitants of the Douro too. The lack of transport had meant that people had had to be pretty self-sufficient in feeding themselves. Having said this, most of the quintas still produce home-grown food.

The railway also brought tourism. It still runs today and is considered one of the world's most beautiful railway journeys. Another good reason to visit!

Quinta do Bomfim's visitor centre opened in May 2015

Where to go next?

Return to Trip Overview >

Trips to other countries >


More from this trip

Trip homepage >

Other recent buyer trips

Champagne 2015

The Pull of Pol

Buyer Pierre Mansour and head of copy Paul Trelford visit Champagne house Pol Roger, ‘the world’s most drinkable address’ and find out more about the importance of ageing and the date of disgorgement.

View full trip
Travels In Wine - Piedmont 2015

Piedmont 2015

Perfect Piedmont

Protected by the Alps to the north and west and the Appennines to the south, Italy's north west is one of the wine world's most exciting regions. Paul and Janet try to get to grips with the Langhe, map Barolo, understand Barbaresco and round-up the latest Barolo vintages

View full trip
South America 2016

South America 2016

Stories from South America

Buyer Toby Morrhall shares his experiences from visits to Chile and Argentina, finding the best Chilean carmenère, spending a weekend on the coast with Cristóbal Undurraga, the art of the asado, and the romantic tale behind a new chenin blanc from Roberto de la Mota

View full trip

Austria 2016

Discovering Austria

The Society’s digital copywriter Martin Brown joins buyer Sarah Knowles MW on a tour of Austria, where they enjoy the fruits of the excellent 2015 vintage and blend a new Society wine.

View full trip
Browse all >

Members' Comments (0)

There are no comments for this article.

Want more inspiration?

Sign up for a carefully-curated selection of recipes, guides, in-depth expertise and much more.

Our website uses cookies with the aim of providing you with a better service. By using this website you consent to The Wine Society using cookies in accordance with our policy.

Close

4.4. Cookie Policy

By using The Wine Society website, you agree to cookies being used in accordance with the policy outlined below. If you do not agree to this, you must alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you or cease using the website.

The Wine Society uses cookies to enable easy navigation and shopping on the website. We take the privacy of all who use our website very seriously and ensure that our use of cookies complies with current EU legislation. The following guide outlines what cookies are, the types of cookies used on The Society's website and how they work.

You may alter your browser settings to turn off cookies or block those types which are unacceptable to you, but this will cause difficulties when accessing and using some areas of the site. Instructions on how to do this can also be found below.

4.4.1. What are 'Cookies'?

  • Most major websites use cookies.
  • A cookie is a very small data file placed on your hard drive by a web page server. It is essentially your access card, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the server that gave it to you.
  • Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.
  • The purpose of a basic cookie is to tell the server that you returned to that web page or have items in your basket. Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next.
  • Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.
  • More recently, cookies have also been used to collect information about the user which allows a profile of their preferences and interests to be created so that they can be served with interest-based rather than generic information about available goods and services.

4.4.2. How do Cookies help The Wine Society?

Cookies allow our website to function effectively. Cookies also help us to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. We can learn what information is important to our visitors, and what isn't.

4.4.3. How does The Wine Society use cookies?

The Wine Society does not accept advertising from third parties and therefore, as a rule, does not serve third-party cookies. Exceptions to this include performance/analytical cookies (see below), used anonymously to improve the way our website works, the provision of personalised recommendations, and occasions when we may team up with suppliers to offer special discounts on goods or services.

The Society uses technology to track the patterns of behaviour of visitors to our site.

4.4.4. What type of cookies does The Wine Society use?

We use the following three types of cookies:

4.4.4.1. Strictly Necessary Cookies
These cookies are required for the operation of our website, enabling you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services like shopping baskets or e-billing cannot be provided. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Authentication Cookie and Anonymous Cookie
    These cookies remember that you are logged in to your account – without them, the website would repeatedly request your login details with each new page you visit during your time on our website. They are removed once your session has ended.
  • Session Cookie
    These cookies are used to remember who you are as you use our site: without them, the website would be unable to tell the difference between you and another Wine Society member and facilities such as your basket and the checkout process would therefore not be able to function. They too are removed once your session has ended.

4.4.4.2. Functionality & Targeting/Tracking Cookies
These cookies are used to recognise you when you return to our website and to provide enhanced features. This allows us to personalise our content for you. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Unique User Cookie
    This cookie is used to:
    • store your share number in order to identify that you have visited the website before. Without this cookie, we would be unable to tell whether you are a member or not.
    • record your visit to the website, the pages you have visited and the links you have followed. We use this information to make our website, the content displayed on it and direct marketing communications we may send to you or contact you about more relevant to your interests.
    • This cookie expires after 13 months.
  • Peerius Cookies
    These third-party cookies are used to provide you with personalised recommendations based on your purchase and browsing history. They expire within 4 hours of your visit.

4.4.4.3. Performance/analytical cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information which identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. Under this heading, we currently use the following cookies:

  • Google Analytics Cookies
    These are third-party cookies to enable Google Analytics to monitor website traffic. All information is recorded anonymously. Using Google Analytics allows The Society to better understand how members use our site and monitor website traffic.

4.4.4.4. Authentication Cookie
In order for us to ensure that your data remains secure it is necessary for us to verify that your session is authentic (i.e. it has not been compromised by a malicious user). We do this by storing an otherwise meaningless unique ID in a cookie for the duration of your visit. No personal information can be gained from this cookie.

4.4.5. How do you turn cookies off?

All modern browsers allow you to modify your cookie settings so that all cookies, or those types which are not acceptable to you, are blocked. However, please note that this may affect the successful functioning of the site, particularly if you block all cookies, including essential cookies. For example, In Internet Explorer, go to the Tools Menu, then go to Internet Options, then go to Privacy. Here you can change the rules your browser uses to accept cookies. You can find out more in the public sources mentioned below.

4.4.6. Learn more about cookies

4.4.7. Changes to our cookie policy

Any changes we may make to our cookie policy in the future will be posted on the website and, where appropriate, notified to you by email. Please check back frequently to see any updates and changes to our cookie policy.