Portugal is best known for its production of port, a strong and sweet dessert wine. // © 2016 Kenneth Shapiro
Feature image (above): AmaWaterways’ weeklong wine-themed cruise on Portugal’s Douro River brings clients to several vineyards. // © 2016 Kenneth Shapiro
Culinary travel is one of the hottest trends right now, with suppliers across the industry adding a range of food- and wine-related options — and this is true for river cruising, as well.
AmaWaterways, in particular, has been a leader in creating itineraries throughout Europe that appeal to wine enthusiasts. While most travelers will focus on AmaWaterways’ wine cruises in France and Germany, itineraries on Portugal’s Douro River should not be overlooked by agents.
On a recent wine-themed Enticing Douro cruise onboard AmaWaterways’ AmaVida, we visited several vineyards along the river and sampled a range of different vintages. Of course, Portugal’s main product is port — a strong, sweet wine that is typically enjoyed with dessert — and for lovers of port, visiting the country is practically a religious pilgrimage.
Nearly every day of our seven-night itinerary featured some excursion or activity related to wine.
The cruise begins and ends in the picturesque town of Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, where we visited Museu do Douro (the Douro Museum) and enjoyed a wine tasting — one of many throughout the cruise. Over the next week, we stopped in at several small vineyards, where we were able to sample port and learn more about the production process.
One of the highlights of the cruise was a visit to Quinta da Pacheca winery and hotel, where guests sampled grapes right off the vine and even hopped into one of the vats to crush grapes with their feet. Afterward, we enjoyed a picnic in Quinta da Pacheca’s fields that included a tasting of several varieties.
On another day, we took part in an excursion to Quinta da Roeda, another small vineyard with incredible views of the Douro river valley. We toured the vineyard, ate lunch and sampled more port.
Port-lovers enjoyed plenty of highlights onboard the ship, too. AmaWaterways prides itself on the quality of wine served on its ships, and passengers on the AmaVida cruise were treated to delicious local ports every night. In addition, educational lectures about the wine and the history of the region were held in the ship’s lounge during the day.
On the final night of the cruise, we were taken to Casa de Vila Verde, a historic house on one of Portugal’s oldest vineyards. The region where this winery is located has a long tradition of producing Vinho Verde. This unique type of Portuguese wine is very young and has a slight fizz similar to a sparkling wine. After dinner and a tour of the vineyard’s amazing villa, guests headed back to the ship, ready to bring home their newfound knowledge of Portuguese wine — and maybe a few bottles of vinho, as well.