Portugal’s Duoro Valley is the oldest regulated wine making region in Europe, preceding Bordeaux. Sorry France. Wine estates in Portugal are known as Quintas and as our cultural excursion we visited one of the oldest. The bus ride from Amarate to Regua took about an hour and the views of the hills, valleys and towns lining the Duoro River were incredibly beautiful.
Quinta da Pacheca has been making wine since 1738 and is one of the first to bottle wine under their own name. Most of the wines produced in Portugal are a blend of varietals and sold by region not by grape. But recently Pacheca has produced a single grape varietal wine that has won several medals and plans to expand its market in the US and Brazil. Right now they export about 70% of their wine to France. Accolades aside, all of the wine we tasted was delicious. And we got quite an education in port wine, something new for many of us.
On our wine tour we learned that Pacheca still uses the traditional method of stomping grapes by foot. Stomping by foot crushes the grapes and allows the skins to begin to macerate and release their color and tannins without crushing the seeds, which would make the wine bitter. Larger wineries actually use machines with human-foot sized mechanisms coated in silicone to crush their grapes! We were assured that if we come back in September we can help with the harvest.
Portugal is the birthplace of port, which doesn’t have to be an acquired taste. All of the ports we tried – white, tawny and vintage, all of various ages, had unique characteristics and were all stunningly complex on the palate. Some port is aged in the barrel and some in the bottle, but the color and flavors of all port wines change with time. Chocolate or cheese with port might be my new favorite dessert.