Portugal is the birthplace of explorers, navigators, poets and some very interesting wines to discover.
Oporto, in northern Portugal stands on the two banks of the Douro estuary. Upstream the river waters flow along a deep and long valley whose terraced hillside give birth to their precious wines, some would call nectar. The reputation of port wine derives from the quality of the grapes, climate created by the river, and the soils. This wine can be aged either in the bottle or casks.
Now listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the old city which rises in the shape of an amphitheater from the Quay de Ribeira can be seen with its vantage points. Porto is a historic mercantile city with business and trade written into its very name. Wonderful medieval walls, Baroque churches, compact streets, massive blue and white tiles cover whole buildings, and the stylish Foz do Douro district for its beaches and hip restaurants.
A Villa Nova de Gaia, on the south bank of the Douro estuary facing the city, stands the famous port lodges, which store the fortified port wines. In the early 18th century the great family wine firms from England moved into the Douro Valley to exploit the trade in the newly discovered nectar.
Now with the increasing costs involved in the production of port, family businesses have gradually been supplemented by international conglomerates. But the secrets of wine-making and the time required to produce a good port remain the same
Get the perfect shot of the iconic Luís I Bridge from the Quay.
Visit Casa de Serralves, a graceful Art Deco property built by designers like Charles Siclis and René Lalique recruited to craft the interiors.
An industrial symbol for Porto, this twin-level metal arched bridge opened in 1886. It was conceived by the German engineer Théophile Seyrig who cofounded the Eiffel Company.
Espaço Porto Cruz offers more than Port wine tasting, it offers a full experience with the purpose of celebrating the culture of Port wine by associating modernity to tradition.
Sail up the Douro River to Pinhao around the curves and through the cavern like hills.
Delve into the country’s seafood; like clams in a Cataplana, deeply smoke sausages, Tripas a moda, and of course, Pasteis de Nata, probably the most famous Portuguese sweet.
Off the coast of Africa, and thousand miles from mainland Portugal, the semi-tropical, jaw-droppingly beautiful volcanic island of Madeira has long been famous for its fortified wines, DOP Madeira.
Bathed in the Gulf Stream, Madeira has a mild climate. Clouds build up most days over the mountainous interior, there’s a brief downpour, than sunshine again – nothing that greatly disturbs the tourists who flock to this stunning island. The temperate, humid climate and fertile volcanic soil make it a perfect garden.
Early exporters of Madeira wines realized that their delicate produce travelled better when fortified with a little brandy. They also found that something miraculous happened during long, hot sea voyages across the equator – the flavor grew intense and nutty. Madeira producers learnt to mimic this phenomenon by ageing barrels of fortified wine in the sun, under glass roofs in their warehouses, for years on end - a process they called canteiro.
Be aware that Madeira was poured during Thomas Jefferson’s toast at the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and it was also savored at the inauguration of George Washintn shortly thereafter.
A drive around the whole island is a must, as is the Funchal Cable Car to Almirante Reis
Though not attractive to the eye, you must try Peixe espada (black scabbardfish) com banana is one of Madeira’s most famous regional dishes.
Blandy’s Wine Lodge is a good start, shining a light on 200 years of winemaking on this archipelago.
Visit the cooperage where the barrels are made, find out how the negra mole grapes are turned into wine and see the ageing vats made from Brazilian satinwood.
Within the magnificent Palheiro Estate and lying adjacent to the Madeira Island Hotel Casa Velha do Palheiro - a Relais & Châteaux property - the 18-hole golf course meanders through a pristine gardens, maritime pine and botanical woodland embroidered with lush, sub-tropical plants.
Bolo de caco is Madeira’s regional bread, named after the caco or basalt stone slab that it’s cooked on.
Basket toboggan ride down the mountain is the most iconic way to travel and not half as scary as flying into Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira airport with its runway built out over the water.
Belmond Reid’s Palace
The Cliff Bay
Casa Velha do Palheiro