The Douro Museum, a multisensory approach to the Douro territory

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by Vera Dantas


Douro Matéria e Espírito (Douro: Matter and Spirit), By Luís Ferreira Alves

The Douro Museum – a Territory Museum is the perfect gateway to discover the Douro Demarcated Region, declared a World Heritage by UNESCO as a evolving and living cultural landscape. In a multisensory approach, it creates connections throughout its territory reaching communities and projecting Douro's heritage well beyond its borders. Its creativeness and networking earned it the regional distinction of Best of Wine Tourism 2017 in the Art and Culture category.

Housed in the nineteenth century Casa da Companhia Velha, in the centre of Peso da Régua, facing the Douro River, this museum is as much a place of memory and collective identity of the Douro wine region as an active element in new projects. The Douro Museum goes beyond normal exhibition and interpretative features to become a catalyst for cultural and artistic activities, both in its various venues – the Wine Bar overlooking the river, the Restaurant, the Library, the Reading room and the Historic Archive – and out of doors. Partnering with other institutions and companies, it promotes sustainable tourism in Douro with activities related to wine production and cultural and wine tourism, and uses creative interventions to take the Douro region to urban spaces.

Douro Matéria e Espírito (Douro: Matter and Spirit) by Luís Ferreira Alves

The permanent exhibition "Douro: Matter and Spirit" exalts the first demarcated wine region of the world, Alto Douro, as an evolving and living cultural landscape. Divided into 13 themes, it presents a chronological and geographical synthesis of the region. From the earliest vestiges of human settlement, to the specialization of the territory in the culture of wine and its demarcation, the permanent exhibition materializes the dimensions of memory and evolution of the Douro region.

The wooden interior, inspired by the wine boxes, makes the visitor's experience more sensory and genuine. My attention was divided between the original pieces displayed – such as the bottling or wood embossing machines – the graphic representations on the wood panels and the descriptive texts. In order to travel back in time, I simply had to contemplate the beautiful photographs and films that tell the story of the Douro.

In the centre of the exhibition, on a large scale model, different maps are projected alternately with all kinds of information about the territory. Upstairs, a huge wall displays all the bottles of the Douro and Porto wines that have been awarded since 2014. No wonder the wall is already full after only two years!

Vinha in vitro Museu do Douro (Grapevine in vitro ) by Vera Dantas

But what most caught my attention were the in vitro grapevine species of Douro, a project developed in partnership with the University of Trás os Montes and Alto Douro that makes it possible to take a grapevine shoot to plant at home. The flasks with the genetic heritage of the Douro valley are sold at the Museum 's shop, among other local products of the region, such as the irresistible Douro's dried fruits.

Sons do Douro by João Pedro Marnoto

To promote the Douro experience, even among those who do not yet know it, the Douro Museum created in 2013 the music project Sons do Douro (Douro Sounds).

This completely original group is formed by 11 young musicians from Lamego, Régua and Vila Real. Each show is unique: the voices join the percussive sounds in wine barrels, hoes, grapeharvesting baskets and even pruning shears to evoke the Douro wine culture imaginary, joining popular music with contemporary percussion. In a single concert, Sons do Douro represents the cycle of the vineyard, transmitting it to the public through sounds and images that create new connections to this stunning region.

The Douro Museum creates startling experiences of its territory, landscape and people. A visit to its magnetizing space is inspiring and full of (re)discoveries. An unforgettable starting point for those who really want to know the Douro region, from its origins to the present day, from the landscape to the sounds, aromas and flavors.

Photos by Luís Ferreira Alves, Vera Dantas and Pedro Marnoto