Vineyards line the Douro River

Douro Valley Harvest Wine Tour/Grape Stomping

Douro Valley Harvest

In mid-September, my husband, our two adult children, and I boarded a train in Campanhã, Portugal, and headed west. We had made a reservation at Quinta da Pacheca for a Douro Valley harvest wine tour. It included a tour of the wine cellar; breakfast and lunch with wine pairings; grape harvesting; and grape stomping.

I was most excited about treading grapes. My only exposure to grape stomping was watching a classic “I Love Lucy” episode set in Italy. In this episode, Lucille Ball and a local lady turned grape stomping into a battle. Both of them smeared grapes on each other’s face and during a struggle they fell and were plunged in purple. But aside from Lucy, I felt that Douro Valley grape stomping would create an unforgettable family memory, though I was a little disappointed.

View from the train of a vineyards
From the train we watched the terrain change to vineyards.

Douro Valley

Amazingly enough, I had seen photos of the magnificent scenery in Douro Valley. Furthermore, I was looking forward to viewing the landscape first hand. I knew that we were on the right track because I had read that the best way to see Douro Valley is by train, riverboat, or car.

After about an hour into our train trip, as I gazed out the window, I noticed that the countryside gradually changed from buildings and houses to quintas, or wine estates, planted with hundreds of rows of grape vines.

The Douro River curves through Portugal
Vineyards line the Douro River in Douro Valley, Portugal.

Not only did the landscape dazzle us, but our train edged the Douro River that delivered double duty. As the Douro River curved through the valley, the mountains, trees, and planted fields mirrored in the waterway.

In the past, the Douro River had ridden roughshod through the valley. Since the 1960’s, a damming project has slowed the river flow. Today it’s perfect for exploring by riverboat.

Douro Valley Wine Region

The Douro Valley provides a spectacular setting, and it’s famous for wine. Most importantly, it was the first recognized wine region in the world. Plus the governing body that oversees the quality and quantity of the wine is located in Peso da Régua.

The Douro River divides vineyards
The Douro River cuts through the Douro Valley wine region.

Douro Valley Wine

Not only is the Douro Valley region famous for its port wine, but you can find a selection of wines that include white, rosé, red and sparkling.

Douro Valley Port Wine

During our visit to Douro Valley, we tried the region’s table wines along with a selection of port wine.

Below is a sampling of some of the ports along with pairing suggestions. Also, I added an estimate from the Douro Valley wine institute for the length of time that you can enjoy a bottle of wine after you open it and before it starts losing its flavor. Of course, storage and temperature, that I converted to Fahrenheit, affect the wine’s longevity.

Quinta Da Pacheca wine barrels
Wine barrels line the Quinta da Pacheca Wine Cellar in Douro Valley.

White Port

Douro Valley vineyards combine a variety of white grapes to produce a white port. If you prefer the sweetest white port, you should try Lágrima.

Though some white port is aged in barrels for several years most is aged for only two years and is meant for you to drink while it is young.

Try white port before a meal as an ápertif or mix it with tonic or soda and add a wedge of lemon or lime for a light, refreshing drink.

You can pair white port with salads, smoked salmon, cold meats, smooth cheese, fruit, olives or nuts. Most importantly, after it’s opened, the port’s quality should last for eight to ten days. However, if it is aged, a white port can maintain its character for one to four months. Serve it at 43 to 50 degrees.

Douro Valley wine barrels and flowers line wine cellar wall
Douro Valley wine tours of Quinta Da Pacheca include visiting the wine cellar.

Ruby Port

Ruby port is aged two to three years and is ready to drink. Try it with pastries, fruit, chocolate, and creamy sheeps cheese. After you open ruby port, it keeps for eight to ten days. For best taste, serve between 54 to 60 degrees.

Douro Valley Wine
We shipped some Quinta da Pacheca wine home.

Vintage Port

Vintage port combines the best grapes from the harvest and the winery ages it in barrels for about two years. It’s meant to mature in the bottle.

Try it with meats, game, dried fruit, chocolate, velvety cheese, cheddar, or pungent cheese like Stilton. Consume it within two days of opening and serve at  64 degrees.

In Douro Valley a bucket filled with grapes
We each filled about seven buckets of grapes during our tour.

Tawny Port

The tawny port receives its color from aging in barrels. Older tawny is aged in decades of ten years: you can buy ten-year-old, twenty-year-old, thirty-year-old and forty-year-old + tawny port. After opening, a tawny port that is aged in decades can last one to four months.

Try it with a smooth cheese like brie or pungent cheeses. It goes well with caramel desserts like crème brûlée and dark chocolate.

You should consume younger tawny within three to four weeks. The younger the tawny port, the sooner you should drink it after opening. Serve it between 50 to 57 degrees

Fortified Port

Port contains between 18 to 21 percent alcohol caused by fermentation and fortification. The winery adds grape brandy that stops the fermentation and fortifies the port.

Vineyard viewed through trees
Rows of grape vines cover Quinta Da Pacheca.

Quinta da Pacheca

As mentioned above, our goal was to participate in the Douro Valley harvest. We met our group and tour guide, Carla, in the Quinta da Pacheca hotel around 10 a.m. Our group only consisted of twelve people, but we were the only ones who spoke English. Carla guided us through the tour speaking in both English and Portuguese.

Table set under trees Douro Valley
At Quinta da Pacheca, we dined outside overlooking the vineyards.

Unlike my daughter and me, my son and husband were apprehensive about harvesting and stomping grapes. However, Carla doled out straw hats and tee-shirts to everyone and instructed us to put them on. Before they knew it, Carla had roped in my son and husband, and they had to participate. Ha ha!

Quinta da Pacheca Wine Tour

Carla took us through the Lagarada where sizeable gray stone vats lined the walls.  We watched two men in one of the tubs lift their legs one after another and press grapes with their feet. From there, we headed to the wine cellar where we learned about aging wine in barrels.

A stone trough or lagar Douro Valley
Purple grapes fill a stone vat at Quinta Da Pacheca in Douro Valley.

Quinta da Pacheca Wine

About 10:45, the Quinta da Pacheca staff served breakfast outside buffet style. Additionally, a waitress stood by and offered us Quinta Da Pacheca wine in red, white and rosé.

The weather felt warm, and we could see the mountains in the distance. Our venue offered an excellent view of the area’s Douro Valley wine region. In my opinion, we sat at the best table in town.

Our breakfast consisted of Portuguese style onion soup and thick slices of bread. Other selections included grilled sardines and pork in a sauce.

A grilled sardine, slice of bread and pork
Our breakfast included pork, grilled sardines, and thick bread,

Quinta da Pacheca Harvest

After a satisfying meal, we assembled in front of the Quinta da Pacheca wine house. Carla handed out clippers and buckets, and we boarded a van. We were off to the Douro Valley fields to harvest the grapes with the local employees.

For our family, it became a contest. We competed against one another to harvest the most grapes. With that said, we sweated as the sun beat down. Moreover, we fought off bees that gravitated to the sweet grapes.

A man harvests grapes in Douro Valley
We hand-picked grapes with the locals.

Though we only worked the Douro Valley harvest for about 45 minutes or so, it was not easy continually bending over and standing up in the heat. Most importantly, I gained a new respect for the people that worked in the vineyards. I was amazed at how the workers moved quickly through the rows and cut the grapes from the vines without leaving any behind.

Furthermore, on our way to the field, I had spotted men harvesting grapes perched roadside on steep slopes, and I wondered how they kept their balance.

Vineyard and tour in Douro Valley
We worked with the locals in the vineyard during our Quinta Da Pacheca wine tour.

Douro Valley Grape Stomping

After we filled about seven plus buckets of grapes, Carla called us back to the van, and we headed to the Lagarada. She offered us shorts, and we changed into them. Afterward, our group met at a stone vat.

First, we stepped in a tub of water to clean our feet and legs. Then we swung our first then the second leg over the top of the vat.

The grape mixture squeezed between our toes. Three men serenaded us. Two played the accordion, and one strummed the guitar. We danced and squashed the grapes.

I had flashbacks of the “I Love Lucy” show. Luckily, I decided not to make a scene by smearing red grapes on my daughter’s face because I didn’t want to be THAT tourist. Anyway, I would have gotten the worst of it.

People in Douro Valley stone vat with grapes
We participated in the Douro Valley harvest by stomping grapes.

The best part was when the master grape stomper formed our group in can-can mode. We connected arms with the person next to us and raised our legs one at a time and stomped in rhythm to the music.

Overall, I felt that Douro Valley grape stomping was overrated because I expected a more lively experience, though I am glad that we tried it.

Quinta da Paccheca Wine Tour

After grape stomping, when we climbed out of the stone tub, we agreed that our feet felt refreshingly clean. We changed back into our clothes, and it was time for lunch.

Once again, we dined on Douro Valley harvest cuisine while overlooking the vineyards. In addition to the table wine, we tried the white, ruby and tawny port.  Among our meal selections were thick bread, pork sausage, creamy cheeses like brie and goat cheese, a salad, sardines in a rice mixture, and more. Additionally, we paired the Quinta Da Pacheca port with fruit, chocolate, and a creamy caramel dessert.

Douro Valley Hotels

In my opinion, for the best experience, you should try to stay at a quinta. Quinta da Pacheca hotel offers accommodations. Also, you have the option of staying in a wine barrel.

If you are looking for luxury, check out Sixth Senses Douro Valley.

Delfim Douro Hotel Douro Valley
We stayed at the Delfim Douro Hotel.

Delfim Douro Hotel

We had booked reservations at the Delfim Douro Hotel. The hotel room furnishings were spartan but clean. The rooms consisted of a bed and not much space to store clothes, but we were on the move and weren’t unpacking anyway.

Amenities included a pool, game room, bar, and breakfast. We also loved their restaurant where we sat outside and overlooked the Douro River Valley. Stay tuned for more information on the Delfim Douro Hotel.

Conclusion

Though I have participated in several wine tours, I have never engaged in anything like our day at Quinta da Pacheca in Douro Valley, Portugal.  First of all, having the chance to stomp grapes made our experience unique.

Douro Valley Portugal
Quinta Da Pacheca presents an impressive outdoor venue.

Also,  we enjoyed dining on local food and wine tasting in a venue that overlooked the spectacular Douro Valley wine region.

Most noteworthy, Carla did an excellent job guiding us through the winemaking process, and she engaged us with her storytelling.  As a result, I would highly recommend the Quinta Da Pacheca wine tour.

Have you ever toured a vineyard, what was your experience? If you visit Portugal would you consider a trip to Douro Valley? Please comment below.

Douro River in Douro Valley

Two Traveling Texans

 

 

 

21 thoughts on “Douro Valley Harvest Wine Tour/Grape Stomping

  1. I did taste some port in Porto but we didn’t have time to go to the Douro Valley. I definitely want to go back and do a tour like you did. I have never done grape stopping either. Sounds like so much fun. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. We enjoyed the tour and afterward we ordered some port to send back the United States. Ironically, we learned that as a result of the taxes, we could have bought the same port cheaper here. Lesson learned… #TheWeeklyPostcard

  2. Loved this on so many levels! I’m a big fan of port wine, which I assume my mum’s taste buds passed onto me. It’s the sweetness of it probably. And stomping on the grapes sounded like so much fun. Too bad you couldn’t recreate the “I love Lucy” scene. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Katherine, thank you so much. Though I have enjoyed port occassionally, our trip gave me a new appreciation for it and the options to pair it with food.

    1. Annette, thanks so much. I watched that “I Love Lucy” episode before writing my post and I laughed out loud!

  3. I am going to the Douro Valley in April!! This just made me even more excited. I’d love to stomp grapes, but I know that we won’t be there at the right time of year for that. Guess I’ll just have to plan another trip 😛

    1. Curious Pixie, thanks for your comment, we enjoyed the grape stomping experience and I hope that you are able to try it one day.

  4. Weirdly enough, there’s a similar experience available in the summertime in central Korea, grape-stomping and a probable massage, included. This seems like an equally unforgettable affair!

  5. Portugal is very high on my travel wishlist right now, and that is in large part because of port. I’ve gotten into it in the past year or so, but most wineries I visit only offer one style. I’d love to do a harvest time tour, stomp on the grapes, and taste all the ports! Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. erinklema, We loved the food, topography, and people. As far as port, it seems like white port, though plentiful in Portugal, is not​ easy to find in the U.S.

  6. We love touring vineyards! Recently we had a chance to do a wine tasting at Çobo Winery in Albania. Would love to do wine tasting in Portugal some day.

  7. Very educational post, Dorothy! I’ve learned a lot about the Douro Valley wine region from it, so if I were to go there I’d know what to expect. I’ve seen people stomping grapes when I was a kid, back in Romania. At the time those who had small vineyards made their wine like that. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  8. Gorgeous scenery! And it sounds like you had a great experience. I grew up grape stomping, since my grandpa used to make his own wine (just enough for the extended family), and each fall we, kids, helped making it by stomping; it was always fun, though we couldn’t get too wild, we didn’t want to waste any grapes. Duoro Valley and its wineyards look absolutely gorgeaous! Thanks for the tour. 🙂

    1. Emese, that’s such a great memory of your grandpa. I suspect that the kids looked forward to participating in the winemaking process by stomping grapes. Ironically, for us grape treading was a special event, but for you, it was a fun childhood ritual. Love it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.