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On the flight home from Oporto, while waiting with increasing excitement the imminent arrival of the in-flight sandwich, I flicked through the TAP magazine. I had looked at the same issue on the flight over just a couple of days before so wasn’t really sure why I was bothering to do so agin; but then, jumping out from page 129, was an article and full page article of a winemaker.

Not just any wine maker, but one I had met two days previous, enjoyed a tour of his winery and stayed at the vineyard-surrounded hotel! Came as a bit of a shock to be truthful. The photo showed the wine maker – Paulo Coutinho of Quinta do Portal, glass in hand (as they invariably do), at the bottom of a stairwell. Now this went someway in explaining his rather odd insistence of showing us the very same stairwell during the tour! Admittedly the stairwell did make for an interesting photo, but all the same, its akin to showing visitors the dustbin store room in my block of apartments.

Emergency Exit

The winery, including that stairwell, is a minimalists dream. Architect designed, lined with cork, fully feng shui’ed and aligned to the lay lines too I wouldn’t doubt. The vines surrounding the winery are fully sustainable and as non invasive as possible (they are rather pleased that partridges have returned to the vineyard).

The estate lies within easy reach and to the north of Pinhâo (Paulo was born in the neighbouring village of Celeirós I discovered).

This estate that was known in the past as “Quinta do Casal de Celeirós”, has an area of 15 hectares all surrounded by a schist wall.

It’s an historic Quinta with references in the end of the XIX century that considered it as a “Model Property”. It’s also mentioned historically as not having suffered the terrible plague of phylloxera. In 1877 Henry Vizetelly, author of “Facts about Port and Madeira” (Ward, Lock, 1880) drew the attention to the fact that this property hadn’t been affected by the plague and in 1886 the Viscount of Vilarinho de São Romão names it as a truly Model Property and writes: “it’s the only example that we know of a vineyard that didn’t suffer with the plague of phylloxera”.

It’s also historically recognized as being the first property in the Douro to admit women to tread grapes.

Henry Vizetelly wrote: “The young women skillfully gathered their garments up around them. When all was duly adjusted they sprang into the lagar, and, delighted with their task, danced for a time among the grapes with the frenzy if not the grace of a troop of wild Bacchanals. The sight was certainly amusing, although the proceeding was, perhaps, not exactly a decorous one.” “
The label on their fragrant but done dry Moscatel shows an illustration of the winery – one of the doors. If I recall correctly each of the single varietal wines shows a closed door. The labels on the blends an open door. Or maybe it’s the other way round.

I’ve found a video on youtube (below) that shows the vineyards, restaurant, hotel, small wine museum and so on if you fancy visiting (it shows the old style wine labels and is in Portuguese with English subtitles. I think the décor in the lounges has also been updated).

And the wines? All worth trying if you find them. Look out for the juicy, perfumed Quinta do Portal Colheita 2011 (£9.95 Wine Society). CA Rookes in Stratford list all the wines including three just perfect for this weather – the Portal Dry White Port (great in a cocktail with mint, tonic water and a slice of lemon), the Portal Pink Port (superb served over ice and slice of orange, or topped with a sparkling white) and the Portal Fine Ruby (serve well chilled and made into a long drink with the addition of sparkling rosé wine).

Photo Gallery: Quinta do Portal Douro Portugal

Video: Quinta do Portal Douro Portugal

The trip to the Douro was arranged by Discover The Origin. Discover the Origin is a campaign financed with aid from the European Union, Italy, France and Portugal to promote five key European products: Bourgogne Wines, Parma Ham, Douro Wines, Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and Port.

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