Although it was my second time in the Douro, but my first time in city of Lamego I am still amazed at the natural beauty of this region with its rolling hillside vineyards which looks gracefully down onto the Douro River. As a sleeping beauty, the Douro Valley stands out for being the first wine region in the world to develop an Appellation system of quality and to be an UNESCO world heritage site.
Lamego is one of the Douro’s provincial cities located in between two hills. ON top of one of the hills is a tiled granite stairway with small alleys on different levels going in different directions to tranquil hideaways and walking trails before arriving at the top in front of a baroque church called Sanctuary do Nossa Senhora dos Remedios which overlooks the center of the town. On the other hill is the ruin of a 12th century castle. Lamego is also where the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques was crowned. Therefore, it is fitting that Lamego host the first Douro International Wine Tourism Seminar and Wine, Cultural and Art Fair which was held June 7 – 9, 2013.
Sponsored by Surrounding cities and Associations, this Seminar was an opportunity to introduce to Douro wineries the many avenues available to them for improving visibility of Douro wines and culture through Tourism. I with other fellow wine colleagues and bloggers where invited to speak and give examples and ideas that can help them in their development.
After the opening ceremony by Lamego’s Mayor Francisco Lopes, the different presidents (Rui Oliveira of Beira Douro Development Association of the Douro Valley, José Marques of Development Association Douro Histórico, and Dinis Cordeiro of Development Association Douro Superior spoke about the new projects to come to the Douro region. Portuguese journalist, Rui Falcao presented the project of the organizers, gave short benchmark missions report, and presented some of the tools that will be available to the wineries. Visiting wineries from Spain (Muga) and Portugal were case studies in actual use of innovative ideas.
As guest speakers, fellow blogger and friend, Diane Letulle and I gave examples of what wine tourism has to offer. Diane spoke about the ‘WOW’ factor that visitors seek when visiting a winery. With traveling around the world, Diane shared her experiences of some neat examples of wineries visits using simple techniques to enhance the enjoyable factors of a wine tour.
I spoke about the growing demands of Wine Tourism and how even for a small winery it can be worth the effort to improve its image and stay within a reasonable budget while using online social media. I used our Website, ‘The Wine Profilers’ as a viable example to reach wine lovers around the world. We are small, fresh and passionate about wines and like our members, want to share our experiences with everyone of like mine. I wanted to do an open online tasting during the Seminar, but with over two hundred people attending, it wasn’t possible. Maybe we can be prepared for the next time…
One of the two wines that I had the pleasure to taste and put online is the lovely rich white wine, Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Mirabilis Grande Reserva – 2011. Unhappily, we didn’t get the chance to visit the winery which is also a Bed and Breakfast, but we did get to stay at the lovely Hotel Rural Casa dos Viscondes da Varzea. This sprawling B & B which also makes its own wines is one example of Portuguese hospitality that makes you feel as if living in a dream world. With antique furniture and Scarlett O’Hara style curtains, there are 34 apartment like rooms, five differently decorated living and dining areas, an old chapel, tennis court, outside swimming pool, and activities like horseback riding, bicycle and picnic trails through the vineyards and more…
The second wine tasted and online is the intense 2010 red Quinta do Pessegueiro. This modern contemporary winery that mixes artistic décor with practical winemaking sensibility is the dream of French owner Roger Zannier, a children’s fashion tycoon who understands the value of a competent yet passionate winemaker like Joao Nicolau de Almeida. Not only did we taste this and other wines from this Estate, but we also got to take a private Tour of the lovely home built overlooking the same vines with the view of the Douro.
After the Seminar, what better way to end the talks than to ‘wine down’ to a tasting of refreshing Douro wines? In the Arts, Culture and Wine Fair called Taste do Douro which was a weekend event opened to the public, we got to taste some of the Douro’s finest wines. Definitely when we think of the Douro we think of Port wines. Great Port names like Nieport, Quinta Nova and others were not only present, buy also a generous representation of the DOC reds, whites and espumantes. These wines have come a long way in improved quality and it is very much worth the trip to come to the Douro, see the beauty, live the culture and taste their foods and wines.