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Text and Photos by Sara Riobom
There are never enough excuses to pay a visit to the enchanted Douro Valley, one of the most prominent wine regions in the world. Therefore I was very glad to accept the invitation of CoolTour Oporto, the regional winner of the “Wine Tourism Services” category of the Best of Wine Tourism 2018 awards, to go on a group guided tour to the Douro Valley.
These annual prizes are awarded by the Great Wine Capitals Network, whose members are the best wine regions in the world, such as Mendoza in Argentina, and Porto, in Portugal.
CoolTour Oporto started organizing group tours in Porto and in Douro Valley in 2012, slightly before the tourist boom put this city on the world map. Nowadays there is a myriad of companies that organize this kind of touristic activities, but CoolTour Oporto stood out from the start given the proximity it creates between its staff members (the guides of the tours) and its clients.
This is precisely what I felt with Hugo, the friendly guide I was fortunate enough to have on my tour with CoolTour Oporto. As soon as I (and a group of very cheerful Brazilian ladies) entered the minivan we were welcomed with a comprehensive explanation of what we could expect for the day: no more no less than a visit to two small scale producers in Douro Valley followed by a river cruise in Douro river. With such a plan in hands, off we went to a great day in the countryside!
The first stop was at a tiny village called Provezende, where Hugo greeted us with freshly rye bread baked in a traditional wood-fired oven.
Afterwards we made a quick stop at a small scale producer where we tasted a sample of still wines served by an amazing terrace overlooking the Douro Valley, in Casal de Loivos. We were also able to taste olive oil, honey and fresh bread as well as almonds from the same producer.
Later in the morning we went for a relaxed 1h boat ride in Douro river, which felt particularly good after spending a couple of hours driving in the winding roads of this wine region.
After enjoying lunch at a local restaurant we went for the second wine tasting of the day at Quinta de Santa Eufémia, a family run Port wine producer. There Hugo took the time to patiently explain the differences in all the different Port wine styles (Ruby, Tawny, White and Pink) right at the ageing cellar. Because we took this tour during the harvest season, we had the privilege of witnessing the old granite mills filled with must. We finished the “wine class” with a Port wine tasting served with fresh figs that we collected in the property.
Overall it was a fabulous day spent in one of my favourite places in the world, in the company of a cool guide that made the whole experience feel like a day spent with a good old friend. Thank you for the ride, Hugo!
Cool Tour Oporto