When I'm visiting the Douro Valley and the vineyards that produce grapes for the famous Port Wine, I always get amazed about the enormous difficulty that it had had been planting vines on those sloped hills !!!
picture of Quinta do Noval, near Pinhão.
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During the pre-phylloxera period, the vineyards were planted along valeiras, curved strips of land that ran parallel to the lay of the land on the hillsides and about 7 to 8 palmos wide (between 1m54 and 1m76) at their base.
An inward sloping schist stone wall was banked against the base of each valeira, to form a terrace 5-6 palmos (between 1m10 and 1m32) wide at the top.
Planting density was low as each valeira was customarily planted with only one or two rows of vines.
When he wanted to plant a vine, the farmer would remove and root a shoot from a mature vine the year before
Bibliography: Port Wine by François Guichard, Gaspar Martins Pereira, David Guimaraens, Fernando Peixoto, Alberto Ribeiro de Almeida, Teresa Silva Lopes, George Sandeman, Manuel Carvalho. - Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto.
In December 2003 Decanter Magazine published a report on 40 Single Quinta Vintages tasted blinded.
Out of the 40 Single-Quinta Vintage Ports:
» 1 got 5***** stars - Excellent.
» 8 got 4**** stars - Very good to excellent.
» 27 got 3*** stars - Good to very good.
» 3 got 2** stars - Acceptable to Good.
» 1 got 1* star - Poor to adequate.
Magalhães Vintage Port 2000 is the only one that got a 5***** star classification.
Quinta do Silval is located 6 Km north Pinhão, driving towards Alijó.
The estate, owned by the Magalhães family, has an Rural Wine Hotel open for guests.
Members of the Magalhães family are generally around during the weekends and they will be pleased to provide guests with details on their wines.
Quinta do Silval produces Douro Reds branded Dorna Velha and Port Wines branded Magalhães.
List of Douro Reds:
» Dorna Velha, Douro DOC 2000
» Dorna Velha, Tinta Roriz 2003
» Dorna Velha, Tinta Baroca 2003
» Dorna Velha, Colheita Seleccionada 2003
» Dorna Velha, Reserva 2000
List of Port Wines:
» Magalhães, LBV 1999
» Magalhães, Vintage 2000
Magalhães Vintage Port 2000 got a 5***** star on Decanter Magazine December 2003.
So far Quinta do Silval has declared a Magalhães Vintage Port in the years of 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004.
Besides Portugal, this company's wines are nowadays being sold in various markets such us Brazil, Switzerland, Denmark, England, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, USA, Canada, Dutch Polynesia. Cape Verde Islands, Angola and soon in Norway as well.
Under vine, In total, Quinta do Silval owns 60 hectares = about 148 acres.
Silval Rural Wine Hotel, near Pinhão, has its walls covered with Schist, the local stone found in the Douro Valley.
This job, covering the hotel's exterior walls, was a very intensive labor: a single man was only able to built an half square metro (about 5.38 sq feet) per day.
This brand new Silval Rural Wine Hotel was built in late 2005 and is located 6 Km (about 3.7 miles) north Pinhão, driving towards Alijó.
Port broke upon the world by chance in the 1600s as a result of British merchants on the upper Douro River adding brandy to the local wine production to prevent it from spoiling during its long journey westward to Porto on the then un-dammed, swift and dangerous river. It was noticed that this concoction tasted very good, the more so depending on the sweetness of the basic wine used. Basically, all Ports produced today are variations on this theme, with differences in flavour and appearance brought about by different grape types as well as the maturing and blending methods utilized.
Porto is known worldwide for its excellent sweet wine. Grapes for wine making come from the Douro region, some beautiful step landscapes by River Douro full of vineyards. Some other wines are produced here – the Douro region wine, also very good.
Vineyards and the harvest are one of the most important events that take place during the year. A whole set of traditions and customs are associated with this ancient “technique” and villages and its people are thrilled about the harvest event. It is their way of living; it is a tradition that is inherited from father to son along the decades and centuries.
Azulejos are traditional Portuguese tiles - they are hand painted tiles and can be found in blue and white shades or coloured, depending on theme, epoch and place.
Pinhão has outstanding azulejo panels on the train station – 24 panels, depicting Douro’s traditions concerning the vineyards and the harvest. You shouldn't miss them.
Originally, most of the Port was transported down the Douro in special boats called 'barco rabelos'. These open boats with a single mast would each carry a cargo of about 14 barrels of port on the dangerous voyage through rapids and hidden rocks. Some relics of these boats were actually still anchored beside Regua the day before when we passed through on our way to the Minho region - and I never had another chance to photo them! On our day on the Douro, we only saw this replica that is actually outfitted for short 4.5 hour cruises from Regula. It is called the 'Cenarios do Douro' and is 80 m in length with a breadth of 5.6 m and travels at about 13 knots. It has capacity for 80 passengers and comes equipped with a sun deck, bar and restaurant - not quite like the originals! The price of a cruise is about E75 (US$95).
The slopes of the Douro are dotted with thousands of country wine estates, called 'quintas'. Most are very similar to this one that we observed on the north side of the Douro, just above the railroad tracks that run parallel to the river on that side while highway 222 runs parallel on the south side. High on the hillside, you may be able to make out the white sign 'Offley'. This is also typical, as the quintas announce which of the wineries they are affilitated with. This particular one was established in 1737 by an Englishman, William Offley, and it was later joined by a relative of his, Joseph James Forrester, in 1831. Forrester was a brilliant Englishman who reformed the Port trade by bringing order to its production and quality control. His contribution to the increased success of the industry was so great that he was made a Baron in 1855 by King Pedro V. However, in the end, the business killed him when, in 1862, a port-carrying 'rabelos' boat overturned in rapids and he drowned in the Douro.