One highlight followed another during the Algarve Wine Society's recent trip to the Douro Valley. The tour was devised and led by Professional Wine Educator, Stephen Rosser. The week started with the nineteen participants travelling along the Douro valley to the luxurious Wine Hotel, Quinta do Vallado in Regua. After a tour of the winery, the party enjoyed a delicious al fresco dinner hosted by family member, Francisco Ferreira.
The second day started with a trip following the Douro from Regua to Tua in a train with a 1925 steam engine and 5 ancient wooden carriages. This was followed by a bumpy ride in a grape-pickers truck to Qunita dos Malvedos, one of 26 Symington owned quintas in the area. There the group enjoyed a memorable port tasting given by Henry Shotton and Jackie Dias. In the afternoon there was a visit to Quinta do Seixo, part of the Sandeman empire which is now owned by Sogrape and recently revamped at a cost of €7.5 million. High above the Douro River and overlooking the breathtaking Douro Valley the group tasted a 10 year old Tawny and a 2008 LBV port. The following day the group went to Quinta da Noval, owned by AXA, the diversified French wealth management and insurance group. Then they went by a rabelo from Pinhao to the Quinta do Crasto estate. The rabelo is a unique Portuguese cargo sailing boat, that was used before the coming of trains to transport port, wines and other goods along the Douro. The annual Race of Rabelo Boats is a very colourful occasion with around 20 boats sponsored by the major cellars racing on the Douro at Porto. The fourth day started with visits to Niepoort’s Quinta do Napoles and then the group went to Cristiano Van Zeller’s Quinta do Valed Dona Maria where Francisca, his daughter, presented her own namesake wine, Vinha da Francisca 2011. Late that night some of the more intrepid members of the group went off to tread the port grapes at the Quinta do Vallado – a four hour treading accompanied by singing, marching and much libation. On the next (and last) day the group visited the Niepoort cellars in Vila Nova da Gaia. That evening there was a sumptuous reception, guided tour and a black tie dinner in Porto’s unique Factory House. The Factory House is a splendid grand residence in the center of Porto and is home to the British Association, all members of which are required to be involved as directors in the port business. It was a rare insight into history and the traditions involved with the trade. After a lovely dinner the group moved to the adjoining dining room to drink 1985 Fonseca Vintage port, this having been donated to the Factory House by Nick Heath, Marketing Director of Taylors. THE ALGARVE WINE SOCIETY (AWS) The Algarve Wine Society was formally established in 2003 as a non-political and non-profit association. Its aims are to disseminate and impart knowledge about wine in a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere leading to new friendships. The AWS has approximately 220 members of 12 different nationalities. The AWS activities typically include 4 or 5 tastings each presented by an invited winery followed by a dinner. Additionally trips of varying lengths are organized within Iberia (the Alentejo, Terras del Sado, Ribatejo, Bairrada, Dão, Rioja, Jerez, the Douro and Ribera del Duero etc.) and further abroad (France, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, South Africa). For further information please contact Nigel Adams, AWS Hon. Secretary via the contacts page. Text by Gaynor Stapleton and John Perera