The Douro Valley has always fascinated me, not least because the wines that come out of that region of northern Portugal are a constant presence at my table. On other occasions, I had already visited the area, first on a trip I took on the historic train and another time when I followed the river’s curves on board an old rabelo boat. But I had never before entered the vineyard-covered slopes.
At the beginning of September, I planned with friends (and bloggers) from Porto, Filipa and Diogo (Intrepid Jumpers), and we went to do the Douro by car.
I wanted to feel this region up close, especially at a time when the harvests are taking place, and everything seems to have more life.
Part of the idea was to experience the Douro, passing through the vineyards, getting to know the wine production, and tasting the local nectars. It was at Quinta da Pacheca that I had a real lesson in Douro culture.
The history of Quinta da Pacheca
Without wanting to bore you too much with the history of Quinta da Pacheca, since it is long — it’s one of the oldest wine producers in the region —, there are, however, some details that you have to know. Even to better understand this place.
In fact, its past dates back to the 19th century, when the vineyards were part of the Monasteries of Salzedas and S. João de Tarouca. But it was only in 1738 that the first record appeared mentioning the name “Pacheca.” This came from the fact that the person who managed the property was D. Mariana Pacheco Pereira… “Pacheca” was her surname’s female form.
Like any woman in the north of Portugal, now or then, D. Mariana would be strong and obstinate. In such a way, that her name — or at least her feminine adaptation — persists until today as an unavoidable trademark of the Douro.
According to Quinta da Pacheca: “With about 75 hectares of its own vineyards planted as a World Heritage Site, classified by UNESCO in 2001, Quinta da Pacheca has always been focused on producing quality DOC wines from Douro and Porto and was one of the first in the region to bottle DOC wines under its own brand”.
From the vine to the glass
With an unavoidable presence in the region, time has made Quinta da Pacheca evolve as a producer of Douro wines, but not only. Wine tourism is also a clear bet on the property these days.
With a portion dedicated to accommodation (at Quinta da Pacheca hotel it’s possible to sleep in wine barrels!), it’s the harvest experiences that attract many visitors… including me!
Leaving the grape harvest for another occasion, I was invited to make a program that included a guided visit, tasting four wines, and… traditional grape stomping!
Grape stomping is an ancestral Douro tradition that still prevails today. Although the wine production method is already highly mechanized, some farms still maintain this “art”, with Pacheca being one.
But let’s go from the beginning.
This experience at Quinta da Pacheca starts next to the vineyard since it’s from here that all life on the property begins. The story I told you is introduced here to visitors. It’s also in this place, looking at endless vineyards, that I learned that Quinta da Pacheca currently has 75 hectares of vineyards planted and that 415 thousand liters of wine come out of the cellar per year: 50% of red, 30% of the famous Porto wine and 20% white and rosé.
From the mid-afternoon heat, which leads me to remember how strong it must be for those picking the grapes, I went inside the store, where some of the wines from Quinta da Pacheca’s wide range were presented. In this wine tasting, I had the Branco Reserva 2018, red Lagar Nº1 (Reserva 2016), Vintage Port 2018, and Tawny Port 30 years old… fantastic!
Such a weird… good feeling!
After that, I was invited, together with the other visitors, to enter a large granite tank that most resembled a pool with thick water in shades of garnet.
The first time we put our foot on the floor of the tank and feel the grapes passing through the toes is, at the very least… strange. But a short time later, the sensation gains space in us, and it becomes pleasant.
Although I never did this before, a cadence soon took over me. Left-right, left-right. My legs started to work even without ever having a teacher.
It’s an extraordinary experience, especially if done with friends because the laugh is guaranteed. And even with the other participants, although no one knows each other, a feeling of camaraderie is generated.
As a rule, and if this were a “serious stomping”, the workers would be there for a good couple of hours, setting a pace and destroying the grapes with their feet. In my case and despite being given time, we were there for about half an hour. Enough to provide even more value to those who make this activity a way of life.
The grapes that are stepped on in this activity at Quinta da Pacheca are used for the production of wine. “But is it hygienic?” you will be asking yourself… I asked exactly the same question and what was explained to me is that the entire manufacturing process that the liquid is subjected to until it reaches the bottle makes it entirely safe for consumption.
Wonderful flavors at Pacheca
The harvest experience at Quinta da Pacheca may include a traditional dinner that takes place in the cellar. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it this time. But, definitely, I didn’t lose, since I chose to take the meal in the estate restaurant.
With impeccable staff and service, the flavors arrive at the table, washed down with house wines, as it should be.
The visit to Quinta da Pacheca proved to be a remarkable experience, full of tradition and knowledge about the activity that moves this Portuguese region, recognized both nationally and internationally. To repeat again, without a dought.
Do you know the Douro region? Have you ever visited a wine farm in Portugal or in another country? Tell all about your experience in the comment box below.
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NOTE FROM MARLENE:
This visit was made at the invitation of Quinta da Pacheca, and I can’t help but thank them for all the sympathy and hospitality I received. But, as always, all the photos and opinions are mine, honestly reflecting the whole experience.
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