The delights of the Douro

Liz Brown, member recruitment manager, reports on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Portugal

A day in the Douro at Quinta dos Malvedos

A day in the Douro at Quinta dos Malvedos. Left to right, David Hindley, Derek Symes, Mark Buckenham, Jeremy Weller, Lisa Bradshaw, Mark Stuart, Angela Weller, Jo Locke, Belinda Beeftink, Lorna Gray and Liz Brown.

I'd heard that the Douro Valley is one of the most spectacular wine regions in the world so was thrilled to be given the opportunity to accompany four prize-winning members and their guests, with port buyer Mark Buckenham and buyer of Portuguese table wines Joanna Locke MW. The members had won a place on the exclusive tour as a reward for proposing wine lovers to The Society earlier in the year.

During our four-day whirlwind tour, we visited The Taylor lodge set in beautiful gardens high up in Oporto with views overlooking the Douro River. An amazing train trip took us through breathtaking views up the Douro Valley to arrive at the Symington's Quinta do Vesúvio.

Beautiful Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira

Beautiful Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira

From here we took a fast boat trip across the Douro to Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira and our journey continued with a white-knuckle minibus ride around hairpin bends to arrive at Quinta do Ataíde, home of the Altano wines.

A highlight of the trip was our overnight stay and visit to Quinta dos Malvedos. With its peaceful setting overlooking the Douro and views of vines from every window, it was the perfect setting for an evening hosted by João Vasconcelos and tasting of a number of Graham's ports including a 1982 tawny.

Though it was hard to leave Malvedos our next visit was to Niepoort's winery at Quinta de Nápoles. We had fun with owner and winemaker Dirk Niepoort blending and tasting wine from barrels and enjoying a large convivial dinner with some spectacular old bottles, including the Niepoort Colheita Tawny Port 1957 and 1865 white port.

Our final day was spent at Graham's port lodge and a quick visit to Cockburn's lodge and cooperage. At Graham's we were privileged to meet and taste with Paul Symington, Managing Director of Symingtons. Alongside our own Society's Port and Society's LBV 2009, we tasted eight Graham's ports including the Malvedos 2001 and Graham's Tawny 10,20,30,40 year old ports.

It was indeed a trip of a lifetime and a wonderful experience, perfectly summed up by member David Hindley who was accompanied by his nephew-in-law: ' now seems incredible that we should have been able to pack so much stimulating activity into just four days. Derek and I feel tremendously privileged to have been part of it all. I'm sorry if I sound rather gushing but, as a group, we were agreed that fortune really had smiled on us. Thank you.'

...and thanks go too, to all those members who have proposed like- minded friends, family and colleagues to The Society over the years.

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