If you’re a true wine-lover, you’re bound to have enjoyed some fine Portuguese wine and chances are it was the most iconic of them all, port. Now, imagine treating yourself to a unique experience of touring Portugal‘s wine regions in search of the same or some other types of wine, while at the same time marveling at some of the really spectacular sights! It’s not only doable, but also much easier and more affordable than you probably think.
With grapes growing all over Portugal, from the hilly north, along the coast and the border with Spain, all the way to the south, you’ll encounter an abundance of choice. There are more than 250 native varieties across 31 wine-producing regions. So, if you’re one of those people who enjoy driving and wine-tasting, take a look at some suggestions regarding the best places you can visit in this beautiful country.
Porto Wine Route, Douro
The Douro Valley was the first wine region in the world to be demarcated, back in 1756. Wine tourism concentrates around wine, culture and gastronomy, while the region itself is of unmatched beauty. In order to get here, you should first go to Porto. There are many low-cost flights from all over Europe, especially in the summer. Once you land, rent a car and start your adventure. Take national road 108 up to Entre-os-Rios and continue driving along the Douro River to Regua. Or take the IP4, which connects the districts of Porto, Vila Real and Braganca, and continue on the national and municipal roads. You’ll be able to enjoy breath-taking views of Portugal’s wine regions before sampling some outstanding wine.
Cister Vineyard Route
The north of Portugal is famous for some exquisite wines, such as those of DOC Távora-Varosa. It is made an area nestled between the Paiva and Távora rivers, bordering the Douro. The cultivation of the vine dates back to the period of the Roman occupation. But it was the monks of Cister who developed the trade. You can choose white varieties, such as Malvasia Fina, Cerceal or Chardonnay. Or taste some of the red ones, such as Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca and Pinot Noir.
There are two routes you can choose here. The first, “the path of the monasteries,” will take you through Lamego, Armamar and Cimbres. Alternatively, you can take the road through Moimenta da Beira, Fonte Arcada, Tabuaço, Serra da Lapa and Lamego. In order to maximize your pleasure and get the most out of Portugal’s stunning scenery, you should opt for a luxury car rental. Rent an Aston Martin to complement a crystal glass of Portugal’s exquisite wine and complete this high-style life experience.
Vinho Verde Route
It is a great mistake never to venture farther north than Porto, since some of the nicest, most rugged and traditional pockets of Portugal will remain undiscovered. For example, in the northwest, there is the Minho region, which boasts the Vinho Verde Route. This winery trail loops around a quieter slice of wine country, quite close to Spain’s Galicia wine region. Portugal’s most iconic wine after Port, Vinho Verde can be red, white or rosé. Some white Vinho Verdes look greenish, but the moniker refers to the early-picked grapes, producing young, or green, wines. White Vinho Verde is by far the most popular, particularly during those scorching summer days. On the other hand, reds are tannic and fruit-forward, while rosés are light and fruity.
Once you rent a car in Porto, start driving to Braga, the historic capital of the Minho region and a great base for winery visits. Make a stop in Guimarães, a.k.a. the birthplace of Portugal, on the way to visit this picturesque place. When you reach Braga, continue towards romantic Ponte de Lima, some 30 minutes north. Keep driving for another half an hour and you’ll get to the rolling hills of Valenca do Minho. On the top of one of the hills, you’ll see a beautiful historic fort.
Your road will then take you along the Spanish border, through the Monção and Melgaço region, famous for its Alvarinho grapes. Start closing the loop by heading south on the N101 to Ponte de Barca. You can make a detour and visit the famous Peneda-Gerês National Park. Take a hike or drop by Vieira do Minho for a meal if you have time before returning to Braga. Finally, on your way to Porto, pay a visit to Penafiel for some more wine-tasting experience.
Driving around Portugal’s wine regions and enjoying the scenery, culture, wine and some culinary delights is definitely worth doing. There are many good reasons why people from all over the world decide to take a few days off to meet this magnificent country and sample some of the best wines in the world on the locations where they’re produced. Why wouldn’t you join them?