The small town of Pinhao
The Douro busy with river craft on a Sunday
Soon after The Vintage House Hotel opened in Pinhao in 1998 I researched an article for Decanter on staying in the Douro. At this time there were not many places to stay in the Douro especially the upper part upstream from Regua unless you were a privileged member of the wine trade invited to stay in one of Port companies quintas. Even the tourist offer in Vila Nova de Gaia was fairly restricted.
Today there has been an explosion of tourism in Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia as well as up in the Douro. The streets of Porto are crowded with visitors with modern bars and shops where once there were shops selling old fashioned religious artefacts. At Regua there are several large excursion boats offering river trips and dining. On Sunday morning, while we waited in Regua for our coach to take us to one of the facilities of Quinta das Carvalhas high above and well to the north of Pinhão for a brief session of treading Port grapes, there were a whole procession of coaches setting down and picking up multiple groups of tourists.
However, passing through Pinhão which you might expect to be a centre of wine tourism in the Upper Douro, I had the impression of a rather faded small town with a good number of empty shops. Quite surprising given its position and the number of wealthy and significant quintas like Noval in the area. Slightly reminiscent of Pauillac town that does not share the wealthy of the Grand Cru châteaux residing in its commune.
We were in Porto and the Douro for the First #winelover Symposium. #winelover is a facebook group with just under 23,000 members. Of whom about 300 or so are active. It was founded in 2012 and grew out of the EWBC/DWCC conferences. Four years on it was felt to be time to develop a slightly more formal structure.
During our stay we were privileged to two remarkable Port tastings – one involving wines from the Sogevinus group (see here) and then a wonderful tutored tasting by Bento Amaral of a range of Ports at Niepoort’s Quinta de Nápoles (see here).