Posts

For a wine lover, a wine tour of Spain & Portugal  is an easy way to experience the best wine regions of both countries. For us, the ideal Iberian wine route starts in Barcelona and ends in Porto or Lisbon. The cava cellars of Penedes and mythical reds of the Priorat wine region are highly accessible from Barcelona. Then from Priorat head to the source of Spanish red wine, the famous la Rioja. Just 3 hours away is the most exclusive wine region of Spain, Ribera del Duero, where the Tempranillo grape is king. From here, one crosses the border from Spain into Portugal, and enjoys the scenic beauty of the Douro Valley,  the most iconic wine region of Portugal. If you end your Spain & Portugal wine tour in Porto a visit to one of the many historic lodges along the Douro river with Port tastings is a must! Continuing to Lisbon, the undiscovered Vinho Verde and authentic rural Alentejo wine regions are mandatory stops.

For those wishing to experience the best of Spanish and Portuguese wine regions, we have carefully crafted our Wine Lovers Tour of Spain & Portugal. This 10 day wine tour covers the best regions of Spain & Portugal, the most interesting wineries and the most beautiful scenery.

Vinyes del celler Clos Figures, DOQ Priorat, darrera, el poble del Lloar, Gratallops, Priorat, Tarragona

Fly to Barcelona and start your wine trip in the Penedes Wine Region of Spain, famed as Cava country. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine produced in the Traditional Method, just like Champagne. This Spanish bubbly was awarded it’s own D.O. (Wine Appellation) in 1986 and, although there are a few Spanish wine regions that produce Cava, the wine region of Penedes is the main area of production, over 90%. The Penedes wine region flagship grape variety is Xarel.lo making it the Penedes cava icon. Your visit to Penedes should include at least one of the spectacular modernist cava cellars as well as one of the emerging high- quality organic producers.

Your wine lovers tour continues to the Priorat Wine Region of Spain, where exceptional quality, red wines await you. These limited production reds are labelled DOC (Qualified Appellation of Origin) a denomination reserved to only Priorat and la Rioja. The Priorat wine region is famous for its mineral-rich soil and terraced hillsides of slate (called licorella by the locals), which create a unique humidity for the vines. Priorat wines blend the wine varietals of Garnacha and Cariñena and are substantial, inky wines of distinct character and reputation.

A not-to-be-missed stop is the Rioja Wine Region of Spain. Here we love to showcase the contrasts between historic and traditional wineries, some of them still making their own barrels and the sleek, modern cellars with amazing state-of -the-art wine-making techniques.  In the Rioja wine region there is a heavy use of oak for long ageing, which is the signature Rioja style, resulting in polished reds based mainly on Tempranillo but also Graciano and Garnacha blends. Bodegas Roda nave fermantación

Continuing west, you arrive to the Ribera del Duero Wine Region of Spain. Here you will taste the more modern, full-bodied and slightly more sophisticated single-vineyard wines at two of our favourite cellars. Part of Ribera del Duero wines’ uniqueness is due to Tinto Fino, the indigenous type of Tempranillo grape. The most mythical and inaccessible Spanish wineries are here, along the legendary Ribera del Duero Golden Mile and you will be lucky to visit one.

Crossing the border now you arrive to the beautiful Douro Valley wine region in Portugal, considered one the most spectacular wine regions of the world! Its characteristic terraced vineyards on the sloping hills meet the meandering river below. The in-vogue again Port wine is made here at various quintas (port wine cellars) along a narrow river gorge that winds 100 miles through the mountain ranges. Historically, Port wine was shipped downriver to the city of Porto for ageing, aboard sail-boats called Rabelos. Nowadays, the Douro Valley wine region of Portugal produces not only Port wines but also excellent reds mainly using the Touriga Nacional grape.

Douro Valley

 

Following the route of Port wine, as the grape juice once did from the Douro, you arrive to Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, famous for the Port Wine Lodges of historic port wine producers. Port houses have aged their wines in Vila Nova de Gaia for over three centuries and here, the ageing and blending of most of the world’s supply of Port wine takes place beneath a sea of red roofs emblazoned with some of the most famous names in wine-making.

If your Spain & Portugal wine tour is 10 days only, Porto is the perfect finale for this unique wine trip!  Take advantage of our expertise and let us take you to the very best wine regions and wineries of Spain and Portugal. We will ensure for you the best winery visits and wine tastings with expert in-house guides,  hand selected hotels and you will e able to make the most of your wine tastings as your chauffeur takes the driving strain!

You may like to include other wine regions of Spain and Portugal in your private wine tour, for example the up and coming Vinho Verde in northern Portugal and the rural, quaint and very authentic Alentejo wine region, half way between Andalucia and Lisbon. Just let us know and we can happily custom build your perfect wine tour based on your preferences. If you are looking for an ideal for the best route, have a look at our sample itinerary  Wine Lovers Tour of Spain & Portugal . Contact us for pricing or to start custom building your perfect wine tour of Spain and Portugal!

viñedos3

Spain, Portugal and SW France are three great Wine Producing Countries and home to some of the most famous names in the wine-making world. Big, complex wines with character, style and quality are just waiting to be tasted in Bordeaux, La Rioja, Priorat, Penedes, Ribera del Duero, Alentejo, Douro Valley

… and you can visit some (or all) of these fantastic wine regions of Spain, Portugal and SW France on a Private Luxury Wine Tour like our Wine Lovers Tour of Portugal, Spain & France

Spain, Portugal and SW France are just the ticket to visit top wine estates and meet vineyard owners and in-house experts who lovingly show you into their world – a big world at that!

Spain has many Wine Appellations known as “DO’s”, Denominaciones de Origen, but just two of them have been distinguished as “qualified”, meaning that their quality standards are a bit higher than the rest: DOC (Denominación de Origen Calificada) Rioja and DOQ (Denominació d’Origen Qualificada) Priorat. Aging is a very important aspect of Spanish wines so Spain has an aging classification system as well, meaning you will find Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva on the label too.

Portugal is divided into 14 Regional Wine areas: Vinho Verde, Trás-os-Montes, Porto and Douro, Távora-Varosa, Bairrada, Dão, Beira Interior, Lisboa, Tejo, Península de Setúbal, Alentejo, Algarve, Açores and Madeira. Portuguese wine is categorized using the ‘DOC’ (Denominação de Origem Controlada) system meaning Controlled Denomination of Origin. In the Douro there are separate DOCs for unfortified wine and for Port, although geographically they both lie within the same boundaries.

In France the appellation d’origine contrôlée “AOC” meaning “controlled designation of origin” sets the rules and today there are hundreds of AOC’s. In France there is a further classification system, existing mostly for Burgundy and Bordeaux, in which the quality of their AOC wines is further rated. In Bordeaux this is the Cru, also referred to as ‘growths’ of which there are five levels, attached to particular chateaux.

So you see there’s a lot going on behind that bottle of wine on your table, standards to adhere to and rules to follow.

Discover some of the best wine regions in Spain, Portugal and/or France on a Private Wine tour designed just for you – the wine enthusiast – and sip fine wine in the Mediterranean breeze, along the left bank of the Gironde or visit the vineyards and cellars of century’s old family owned wineries!

From Crasto Winery Barrels

Once upon a time a local man, named Francisco Ferreira, had a dream! He wanted to own his very own vineyard in the beautiful Douro Valley.

quinta-do-popa-view

Francisco, nicknamed Pôpa, was the illegitimate son of a wealthy winemaker and his veins were filled with the wine and soil of the Douro.

Pôpa worked hard and helped his mother on his father’s vineyard by carrying grape filled baskets to the old lagares (wine presses).  Pôpa was a simple soul but lived in sadness, hoping that one day his father would recognize him as his child.  All the while Francisco dreamed of owning his own estate and producing his own wine, a dream he never managed to fulfill in life.

In 2003, however, his son, José Ferreira, also known as Zeca do Pôpa, fulfilled the dream of his father, a dream that had also been passed on to him.

He started to put together smallholdings, common in the agricultural structure of northern Portugal, and acquire small plots of mostly old vineyards, as well as planting new vines and olive groves. The vines, being planted on the terraced hills above the magnificent Douro River, were blessed with a favorable climate and a high quality soil.

A true vineyard was formed, a vineyard in one of the best locations in the oldest recognized wine region of the world, and he named the vineyard in honor of his father, Quinta do Pôpa!

Built with both great economic effort and enthusiasm, the first harvest took place in 2007.

Today, Francisco’s grandchildren, Stéphane and Vanessa Ferreira, head the team at Quinta do Pôpa and keep the wheels turning with enthusiasm, charisma and commitment for producing signature wines in the family name.

 

The estate now occupies 30 hectares of land, 14 of which are vineyards. Both sophisticated techniques and traditional methods are used and despite the short number of years that Quinta do Pôpa has been active; this young estate has now established itself as a quality winemaker!

Red, White and Rosé wines are produced with love and precision and some innovative and special edition products will delight your senses such as:

QUINTA DO PÔPA HOMENAGEM: The tribute of tributes, named in honor of Francisco Ferreira! This powerful and robust red demonstrates good structure and complexity.

PÔPA TINTO DOCE:  The 1st Sweet Red Wine from the Douro which is a tribute to the women of the Pôpa Family.

PÔPA VV:  made exclusively out of the old vines, aged over 80 years, and trodden by foot, this complex red wine is simply called VV, for Vinhas Velhas (old vines).

A fascinating history, warm welcome, fantastic views and great wines await you at Quinta do Pôpa!

We will be delighted to include a visit to Quinta do Pôpa for you in your private customized tour itinerary or in any of our sample itineraries that take in the beautiful Douro Valley, Portugal.

Portugal is divided into 14 Regional Wine areas : Vinho Verde, Trás-os-Montes, Porto and Douro, Távora-Varosa, Bairrada, Dão, Beira Interior, Lisboa, Tejo, Península de Setúbal, Alentejo, Algarve, Açores and Madeira.

Portuguese wine is then categorized using the ‘DOC’ (Denominação de Origem Controlada) system meaning Controlled Denomination of Origin. Portugal has 31 DOCs/DOPs.  At the moment, both the traditional terminology of DOC and the new pan-European “DOP” are used. DOP (Denominação de Origem Protegida) means Protected Denomination of Origin. The “DOC/DOP” system is similar to the Denominación de Origen “DO” system of Spain, the Appellation d’origine contrôlée “AOC” system of France and the Denominazione di origine controllata “DOC” of Italy.

In the Douro there are separate DOCs  for unfortified wine and for Port, although geographically they both lie within the same  boundaries.

Douro Valley

DOURO VALLEY

The Douro Valley, Portugal, is considered one the most spectacular wine regions of the world with its terraced vineyards on sloping hills that meet the meandering River Douro below as it cuts through the mountains. The characteristic terraces of vines in the Douro Valley were introduced by the Romans in the third century A.D and the Douro “vinhateiro” wine-growing area of the Douro Valley is now a designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The soil in which the Douro Valley vines are planted is made up of schist, a slate-like metamorphic rock.  Rich in nutrients, it also has useful water retention properties.

Long famous as the source of Port Wine, the authentic port wine is made at ‘quintas’ (estates) along a narrow river gorge that winds 100 miles through the mountain ranges and was once shipped downriver to the city of Porto in sailboats called ‘barcos rabelos’. But, the Douro Valley not only produces fortified wine.  Around the same amount of  unfortified wine is produced and is renowned for its fine and rich red and white wine.

The Douro wine region of Portugal is divided into three sub-regions: Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior from west to east respectively. The further east, the drier the climate becomes and the deeper the wines. The Cima Corgo, which includes the towns of Pinhão, São João da Pesqueira and Tua, is the heart of fine port production and where also many of today’s fine unfortified wines are produced.

  • The Baixo Corgo lies at the western end, closest to the Marão mountains, where the rainfall and vineyard yields are highest. This area mainly produces the lighter more early maturing styles of Port intended to be drunk relatively young.
  • The Cima Corgo area is the location of many of the Douro’s finest vineyards and produces more concentrated and long lasting wines.
  • The Douro Superior is the easternmost area and is the driest of all making it the source of many of the finest Vintage Ports.
Douro DOC

Main white Douro Valley grapes:

  • Viosinho, Malvasia Fina, Gouveio, Rabigato, Côdega, Donzelinho Branco, Esgana Cão and Folgazão

 

Main red Douro Valley grapes:    

  • Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Aragonez), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão, Sousão, Bastardo, Mourisco Tinto, Castelão, Rufete, Tinta Amarela (Trincadeira) and Tinta Francisca

 

Just some of the World class Quintas that you could be visiting in the Douro Valley:

Quinta do Crasto –  Sitting in a privileged location in the Douro Demarcated Region, this Quinta is famous for its sophisticated wines as well as for the dramatic views. This single vineyard property dates as far back as the early seventeenth century, long before the Douro became the world’s first demarcated wine region in 1756

Quinta do Seixo – Sandeman’s flagship, and a most exclusive port winery, of the most important Port wine producer. This Winery is beautifully maintained and picturesquely located just down the river from Pinhao, with gorgeous views of Pinhao.

Quinta do Panascal  – This majestic quinta, whose reputation goes back to the 18th century, is located on the banks of the river Távora. It is the most important estate of the prestigious Port Wine Company “Fonseca Guimaraens”.

Quinta de la Rosa – Quinta de la Rosa is unusual in the way that they do everything in the Douro. Most port houses make their port in the Douro but store and bottle it in Vila Nova da Gaia, in Porto. Here, you will be able to see both wine and port making processes side by side.

 

port

PORT WINE

Port Wine is a wine that was developed in Portugal by the British.  It is a by product of their battles with France through the 17th and 18th centuries. The English finally decided to boycott French wine in the late 17th century  and began sourcing their red wine from Portugal. They started to add a drop of Brandy to the still wine so that it would arrive in England after the long trip on a rocky boat without spoiling. This addition of the brandy not only gave the wine the strength to survive the journey but it also made the wine considerably sweeter when it was added early enough to stop fermentation.

Today, Port wine ferments for only 2 to 3 days, has brandy added, and then is aged in wooden barrels. How long it ages determines the taste and how sweet the wine is.

The base  for Port is made and fortified in wineries in the Douro Valley, then transported to the Port lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite Porto, at the mouth of the river, for ageing. Here, the ageing and blending of most of the world’s supply of Port wine takes place beneath a sea of red roofs emblazoned with some of the most famous names in wine-making. Rabelo boats were traditionally used to carry the wine down the river from Douro to the lodges in Oporto.

There are generally five different types of port wine – white, ruby, tawny, late bottle vintage (LBV), and vintage. White is aged early and is young and robust.  Ruby is aged for 3 years with a strong grape and pepper taste.  Tawny is aged in smaller wooden barrels and varies from 10 to 40 years (the label will specify how many 10, 20, 30, 40) with a lighter color and a more mellow taste. Late Bottle Vintage is aged 4 to 6 years while vintage is from a single harvest and is bottled after only two years in barrel, keeping it rich and red, then 10 to 30 years in the bottle. All port wines are medium sweet but they do range from a drier, less sweet to very sweet.

Although around thirty grape varieties can be used to make Port Wine, the five red grape types now generally considered to produce the finest port wine are: Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão.

Just some of the fantastic Port Wine Lodges  that you could be visiting in the Porto:

Taylor’s Port Wine Lodge –  One of the oldest of the founding Port houses was established over three centuries ago in 1692. For many, Taylor’s is the archetypal Port house and its wines the quintessential Ports.  It is dedicated entirely to the production of Port wine and in particular to its finest styles. The history of the firm is in many ways the history of the Port trade itself.

Graham’s Port Wine Lodge  – For almost two hundred years W & J Graham’s has been an independent family business renowned for producing some of the finest Port wines. Wine Spectator Magazine voted Dow’s 2011 as the best port Wine in 2014. Dow’s Lodge in Porto is not open for visitors, but Graham’s is their sister company and you can buy the awarded Port here.

Sandeman Port Wine Lodge –  Founded in 1790 the Sandeman Lodge is housed in a former 16th century convent with a small museum. The Sandeman Porto Cellars are a landmark spot and the building boasts one of the best views of Porto.

 Port Wine, Portugal

Join us on a Private Tour of Portugal (or a combined tour with Spain) like our  Luxury Tour of Portugal – Wine and Culture  to experience the beautiful Wine Regions of Portugal in Alentejo and the Douro Valley, among others, to enjoy winery visits and tastings as well as a relaxing picnic in a vineyard and a cruise along the Douro River.

 

 

Heading to Portugal and want to visit some of the great wine areas?  Here’s an easy and straight forward map of  The Wine Regions of Portugal,  courtesy of “Wines of Portugal”, to point you in the right direction.

Join us on a Private Tour of Portugal (or a combined tour with Spain) like our  Luxury Tour of Portugal – Wine and Culture  to experience the beautiful Douro Valley, among others, to enjoy winery visits and tastings as well as a relaxing picnic in a vineyard and a cruise along the Douro River.

More info about Portuguese wine on the Wines of Portugal website 

Are you passing through Lisbon on your Portuguese Vacation?  Do you have free time to explore on shore while your Cruise is docked for the day?  If so, we would be delighted to welcome you on a Private Gourmet and Historical Tour of the city with our Officially Licensed Guide.

Here’s what can you expect on a Gourmand Breaks Day Tour in Lisbon:

Your experienced, Officially Licensed guide, will be waiting at your hotel, or will meet you from your cruise ship, to take you on a Private Gourmet and Historical Tour of the city.  You will be introduced to the Portuguese culture, cuisine and its incredible mix of Mediterranean tradition and exotic influences from all corners of the World.  Get ready to see the sights and excite your taste-buds!

You will start with Lisbon’s great Cafés and Portugal’s strong café-culture. You will have the chance to take a look at delicious and exotic products, from dried, salted Bacalhau to sausages, hams and cheeses. Learn the history of Portugal’s famous fortified wine, Port, and then try some with the delicious Azeitao cheese.  Discover the local sweets and pastries and sample the famous custard tart, Pastéis de Belém.  Hear about the only tea produced in Europe that is grown in the Atlantic Island of Sao Miguel, in the Azores.  

Try some Portuguese Beer in the beautiful Rossio Central Station and finally make a visit to the Moorish St George’s Castle, renamed after the Moors were conquered in the late 14th century.

After taking in the impressive views over the sea, you will venture on down from the castle to the river, crossing the Alfama, Lisbon’s salty sailors’ quarter.   Its tangled street plan is one of the few aspects of Lisbon to survive the big quake, making the Alfama a cobbled playground of Old World color.  Urban-jungle roads are squeezed into a maze of confusing alleys, designed to frustrate invaders on their quest to get to the castle.  What was defensive then is atmospheric now.  Gnarled houses snuggle together in their romantic shabbiness; the air drips with laundry and the smell of clams and raw fish fill the air.You will pass by some interesting wine shops on your journey where arrangements have been made for you to taste not only the very special famous ports from Douro, but also Portuguese wines, such as Vinho Verde de Minho (the famous green wine of Minho).

Port Wine, Portugal

 

Our Gourmet and Historic Tour of Lisbon features in many of our Portuguese tours.  Join us in Lisbon as part of your Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tour of Portugal, as a combination with Spain or as a Luxury Shore Excursion. 

 

You may also like to read  “If Lisbon had a Sister ……”

If San Francisco had a sister, it would be Lisbon. Both cities have twin bridges and famously foggy weather. Both are situated on the best natural harbors on the west coast of their respective continents. Both have trolleys rattling up and down their steep hills past characteristic buildings. And both have survived horrific earthquakes. In 1755, an estimated 9.0 earthquake leveled two-thirds of Lisbon. Within a month, a new city was designed, and downtown Lisbon was rebuilt on a progressive grid plan, with broad boulevards, including the cosmopolitan Avenida da Liberdade, and square squares.

Today, Lisbon is a charming mix of old and new. Bird-stained statues mark grand plazas, taxis screech around cobbled corners and the hip and trendy hang out in Art Nouveau cafes. Just like it did during the days of Magellan and Vasco da Gama, the city continues to welcome ships into its large port. Even today, Lisbon still feels like Europe’s gateway to the world.

Get ready to excite your taste buds in Lisbon with Mediterranean tradition and exotic influences from all over the World. Enjoy Lisbon’s great Cafés and experience delicious and exotic products, from dried, salted Bacalhau to sausages, hams and cheeses. Learn the history of Portugal’s famous fortified wine, Port, and then try some with delicious Azeitao cheese. Taste the very special famous ports from the Douro valley and Portuguese wines, such as Vinho Verde de Minho (the famous green wine of Minho).

Visit the Moorish St George’s Castle and take in the impressive views over the sea. Venture on down from the castle to the river, crossing the Alfama, Lisbon’s salty sailors’ quarter. Its tangled street plan is one of the few aspects of Lisbon to survive the big quake, making the Alfama a cobbled playground of Old World color. Urban-jungle roads are squeezed into a maze of confusing alleys, designed to frustrate invaders on their quest to get to the castle. What was defensive then, is atmospheric now. Gnarled houses snuggle together in their romantic shabbiness; the air drips with laundry and the smell of clams and raw fish.

Take the chance to listen to some Fado, Portugal’s national music. In the picturesque Bairro Alto you will be able to dine at an authentic Portuguese Fado restaurant.

More about Portuguese Food 

Discover some of our customized food and wine tours to the most beautiful regions of Spain, Portugal and S.W France

Food, Wine & Cultural Tours of Spain, Portugal & S.W France

Our travel agency creates private and high-end wine, culinary and cultural tours in Europe. We understand that everyone’s idea of the perfect package is unique which is why we work with you to customize your unforgettable experience – with an emphasis on a personal touch.
Contact us to receive a quote for your private customized food and wine tour

 

Obidos Castle Portugal

Portugal – proud and pretty – an amazing country with fabulous Ports, delicious local foods and cheeses and nowadays, good red and white wines too is a perfect place for a romantic gourmet tour, with a touch of olde world charm.

Not far from Lisbon – about an hour away – is the picturesque town of Obidos – which has changed little over the centuries.  This old medieval town is surrounded by the castle wall, in length just about one mile!   The little village of Obidos was given as a gift by the King to the Queen in the 13th century as a wedding present and is a veritable treasure chest of churches and palaces.  Many consider Obidos to be one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal and walking around the narrow streets you will perhaps agree too!  In the town square there is the church of Santa Maria, impressive and with an admirable collection of glazed tiles and paintings.  Obidos is also famous for Ginjinha – a cherry liquor that you will taste from a little chocolate cup – it is delicious, but beware, it is dangerously strong!

A short way from Obidos is the Alcobaça Monastery or the Monastery of Santa Maria of Alcobaça, a medieval Monastery which was one of the first Gothic buildings in Portugal and contains also the monuments in memory of King D. Pedro I and D. Inês de Castro (characters of a true romantic Portuguese story from the 14th century, very similar to “Romeo and Juliet”). Just north of Alcobaça, is the Monastery of Batalha, the largest example in Portugal of the late Gothic Portuguese style which also contains Manuelino Art.

See these wonderful medieval treasures and taste port, wine, local foods and much, much more on a Gourmand Breaks Luxury Tour of Portugal.

Last  year we customized a number of  tours around cruises of Portugal and Spain,  starting in Lisbon and finishing in Barcelona, for our clients using companies such  as Azamara Club Cruises and Paul Gauguin Cruises, amongst others. Here are some ideas to inspire you for your next trip….  Read more