Food + Wine

Drink Globally

by Adam Skolnick


The Place: Douro Valley, Portugal

The Poison: A sweet after-dinner drink made from a blend of the best red grapes from a single harvest (hence the vintage) and fortified by aguardente (Portuguese brandy). Silkier than wine on the tongue, and more potent. Tannins galore, though—morning headaches may ensue.

The Buzz: The Douro Valley is in northern Portugal, 40 miles from the Atlantic. The valley is split by the Douro River, which snakes between steep hills draped with 150-year-old terraced vineyards held in place by huge stone boulders. Make the hair-raising, mountain-pass-intensive 75-mile drive from Porto on the Atlantic coast, and you'll happily attune to the slow pace of old-world Portugal.

Down the Hatch: Nearly all the quintas, or port houses, are located near the village of Pinhão, the cultural heart of the Douro. Tours and tastings are available by appointment only. Quinta do Portal makes fine vintage ports such as Portal 1995, as well as Moscatel wines—an ideal aperitif. If you join an organized tour led by Porto fiend Roy Hersh, who has 20 years of relationships in the Douro, you'll try the best of every house on the river, often with unforgettable meals.

Sleep It Off: The industrious family behind Quinta do Portal also has its own guesthouse, Casa das Pipas, with ten simple, comfortable rooms with exposed stone walls, and, in the common area, a fireplace to warm your feet as you sip port into the night. If you arrive in September, you can participate in the harvest and even throw off your shoes and socks to stomp grapes in the traditional granite tanks.

Drink at Home: Quinta do Portal's Portal 1997 is an excellent vintage, with a taste of berries and currants ($55).

Casa das Pipas at Quinta do Portal
Tel: 351 259 937 100
Doubles from $132

Roy Hersh
Tel: 425 868 3369

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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