The adjacent church of St Francis is not dissimilar, in that its humble exterior seems at odds with the lavish Baroque carvings hidden within. I found the ornate, gilded wood overwhelming; rather it’s the simplicity of the wooden carvings in the ceiling, the original architecture and magnificent rose window that lend the church its beauty.
There is evidence that viticulture in the Douro Valley dates back to the times of the Romans. During the Medieval period, wine was primarily produced for use in mass at monasteries, and the horizontal areas of the terraces were reserved for cultivating grain and corn. Vines were planted in the apertures of the terrace walls (pilheros). The vineyards were not expanded until the middle of the 18th century, primarily because of the English demand for sweet wine.
Some years ago my sister came home and said do my father: “Hey dad, why don’t we convert the olive grove into organic production?”. My dad looked at her and replied with another question: why should we do that?”. And Claudia said something like this: “if we stop using chemicals to grow the olives it won’t take us too much work, and I’m sure a lot of people would appreciate it. Moreover, more and more people are looking for organic grown food. In the end all of us want a more sustainable and less manipulated environment.”
Why go: Although Lisbon embraces the past, its glorious old buildings house new restaurants, clothing boutiques and museums that have made the city one of Europe’s hippest—and most affordable—cultural destinations.
You will fall in love with the Douro. Northern Portugal’s claim as the most beautiful wine region in the world is supported by the grandeur of its landscape and wines. Hewn from schist mountainsides like unpolished granite, the steep-terraced vineyards rise above the majestic Douro River’s ribbon of water far below. For centuries, its remoteness—the journey on twisting, cobbled roads—made it hard to reach. Today, it’s easy. Even so, this is a place where neighborhood dogs sleep in the village streets and the annual cycle of the vines seems timeless. Sit on a terrace in the evening, a glass of white Port and tonic in hand, and listen to the distant, mournful hoot of the evening river train. The land is calm, and calming.
There is still some confusion on people’s heads about Port winemaking. The basic details are not difficult, but when we talk about the spirit we use to fortify the must, sometimes explanations complicate what is easy simple. So very often I receive emails from people asking what wine spirit we use and how strong it is. I hope I can help you better understand this particular point about Port.
Luis Sottomayer (Head winemaker for Casa Ferreirinha and all Sogrape Port Wine brands) strikes me as a man of few, choice words; someone unlikely to go out on a limb. An intellectual winemaker if you will. So when he pronounced “Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Ports are the quality of vintage ports 10 years ago,” it speaks volumes.