Posts Tagged With: Douro

A change in perspective?

View of the river Douro, waaaaay up in the north of the country, in Miranda do Douro. Portugal to the left, Spain to the right of the picture

View of the river Douro, waaaaay up in the north of the country, in Miranda do Douro. Portugal to the left, Spain to the right of the picture

As you may (or may not) know, Portugal has a new President. Just to give you some context, in Portugal, Presidents are not the ones who actually rule (that’s for Prime-Ministers). They act like diplomats, in a way, and can veto laws from the Government.

This post is not meant to be about politics and I’d like to stress that I have no political affiliation and it is not my intention to give Beyond Lisbon a political colour of any kind. Still, I couldn’t help but be surprised when checking the news this morning and coming across a sentence, which the new President recently said (sorry, it’s in Portuguese), regarding the presidential ceremonies that will take place in Porto: “Because Portugal is more than Lisbon” (“Porque Portugal é mais do que Lisboa”). Now… that has always been my motto, Mr. President! 😀

headerHonestly, I hope this type of action, coming from the President, will help pave the way for a change in perspective regarding the way people (both in Portugal and abroad) look at the country.


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Getting to know Douro

There are probably not many people in the Western world that have not heard about Port wine. Where does it come from? The Douro Valley Region, in Portugal. And what is the Douro? It’s the river without which there would be no Port.


View of the Douro in a river cruise. See those ‘lines’ to the left? They’re vineyards!

You can find loads of online info about this river (including its wildlife) but I’m going to make this easy for you and give you a quick recap:


The most interesting way to get to know Douro is probably with a river cruise but this river has its own railway line, which offers some amazing views as well. If you have a pile of money burning a hole in your pocket and have no idea how to spend it I can give you my bank details you can also take a tour in a helicopter!

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Random photo of the week


I saw this beauty somewhere during a cruise along the Douro river, in the North of Portugal. I’m very happy with my camera’s zoom!

If you’re a fan of Port you might just find these cruises very interesting 😉 If you enjoy photography or just a laid back cruise along a scenery that also happens to be one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as well! There are several travel possibilities in the area.

I’ll be talking about it in future posts!


Categories: Activities, Nature, Places, Products | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

And now… back to wine!

The other day someone told me: You should talk about wine on your blog! Everybody loves wine!

Well, but I’m not a wine expert. What can I tell you about Portuguese wine?

First of all, the complexity of wine, generally speaking, is astonishing to me. Wine is the end result of a complex alchemy, from the grapevine to the moment the wine touches your lips. More than just growing grapes, pressing them and waiting for the grape juice to ferment, making wine involves real mastery and there are a lot of aspects that come together to make a good wine. If you plant the same grapes year after year in the same land you’ll get different results depending on weather conditions, soil and neighbouring trees. Then there are all the aspects concerning temperature, ageing, letting the wine “breathe” and knowing how to savour it.

Then there are all the strange, not to say bizarre, things regarding wine production. Like that one time when I visited a big wine producer in the South of Lisbon in which you could actually enter some of the cellars. One of them was filled with big barrels of Moscatel  and I could hear… Gregorian chant! What?! The explanation given to me by the guide was that apparently the vibrations of this type of music helped the wine to mature better. Fascinating!

The typical rabelo boat and Porto historical d...

The typical rabelo boat and Porto historical district in background. These were the boats that used to carry Port from several places along the Douro river to Porto (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

In our case it all started with the Romans, I guess: they produced wine across the Lusitanian territory (which corresponds, roughly, to the South of Portugal) and this wine was not only consumed locally, but also sent to Rome. However, before that, Tartessians had already planted vines in the valleys of the Sado and the Tagus rivers.

Grape varieties came and went with the centuries and, today, Portugal has about 285 indigenous grape varieties – more than any other country. Some of them are considered rare, like the Moscatel roxo. Why is it rare? Because some years ago this variety was so badly attacked by a pest that only 14 hectares of it exist today (that’s about 34.5 acres). And I happen to be the happy owner of a bottle of Moscatel roxo. 🙂

We also have two wine producing regions which are protected by UNESCO as World Heritage: the Douro Valley Wine Region (Douro Vinhateiro) and the Pico Island Wine Region (Ilha do Pico Vinhateira). The first one produces what the world knows as Port and the second one produces vinho da Madeira or, as my English friends call it, “Madira”. People love Port so much that the Douro Valley was the world’s first official demarcated wine region, back in 1756.

Apart from the two mentioned above, wine produced in Portugal can be white, green, rosé, red, sparkling or moscatel. And then, there are the wine regions.

It’s not my intention to deliver a lecture about wine but, in my humble opinion, if you really want to enjoy Portuguese wine, you have to drink it here. Sure you can drink vinho verde in, let’s say, Leeds. But trust me on this: if you go for a walk under a hot sun and then sit down for lunch with a nice bottle of this wine you’re likely to end up saying in your best Portuguese “Vinho verde é refresco!“*.


Step on those grapes!

So, if you want to learn to drink wine like a boss taste wine I suggest you take some workshops and/or visit some cellars. Alternatively, you can visit a website with info on the topic. If you happen to visit some of the most famous Portuguese wine producing regions, you’ll find that it’s very easy to find places where you can taste wines and enjoy a visit around the property (usually with a guide, of course). If you have the possibility of taking two weeks off in September and have no idea of how to spend that time (but you don’t want to be very far from wine) you should know that there are places in Portugal where you can pay to stay in a nice room in a cute farm and take part of the vindima. Yes, some people actually pay to pick grapes and experience one of the most characteristic times of the year to those working in the wine industry. It’ kind of holidays with activities, plus some serious calorie burning and minus the kids screaming in the pool. While pressing grapes with your feet you might also learn a few songs which will make you the life of the next party. Here’s a bit from one of those songs in a loose translation: “It was the wine, my God, it was the wine./ It was the thing I loved the most./ Only by death, my God, only by death,/ Would I let go of wine./ Oh, I’ll die in  a cellar/ Oh, with a glass of wine in my hand/ Oh, the must will be my shroud/ Oh, the barrel will be my coffin”.

And to finish this post beautifully here’s your trivia tidbit of the day: Who was the famous dictator with a funny moustache said to have his vaults stockpiled with Mateus Rosé? Was it Hitler? No! Stalin? No! Franco? No! It was Saddam Hussein!

*Loosely translated this means something like “Vinho verde is soda pop!”. Why? Because it’s fresh and light and you might just not notice how much you’re drinking until it is, well, too late.

Categories: History, Places, Products | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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