Do do the Douro – the most beautiful place on earth


Treading the grapes at Quinta do VesuvioI had a pedicure especially. I mean, I needed to show the grapes respect. The invitation to get knee deep in grape juice, skins, pips and to slide, march and waltz (to the local beat) at Quinta do Vesuvio is after all, a huge honour.

If you have never been to the Douro, then make plans immediately. This has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth (if I had my time again, my ‘gap year’ would be there at the very least). It’s ever so tranquil for a start. The river meanders and would take about half an hour for an average swimmer to front crawl across. Either side are the vertiginous shistous slopes, with mesmerising patterns of terraces that are marked by vines growing according to the contours.

But it takes a three hour drive from Oporto. After two hours the roads become twisty and turning, right, (and I haveA Land not easily accessible to say I was reminded of my early family holidays to the countryside and the immortal words ‘are we nearly there yet?’ as I clutched my stomach at the age of five). But that is why I take my hat off to the Symington Family Estates (whose ownership includes Quinta do Vesuvio, Senhora da Ribeira, Dow’s, Graham’s, Warre’s). They work so very very hard for their fantastic results.

Their estates (known as Quintas) are in an inaccessible land for the vine (unlike, for instance, Bordeaux and Burgundy that are so easy to reach from the airport) and their owners, the Symington Family really are protecting an incredible (yes I mean incredible) heritage of Port production. I salute you all Mssrs. Syminton – you clearly love what you do and I will always appreciate every delicious drop that you produce. And like Berry Bros. & Rudd, (both family business go back over 300 hundred years of course) they have a flair for innovation and have invented robots to tread grapes too!

A Robot TreaderThe robot design (left) has taken off, but is only in existence because the labour is in short supply now. They were never there to replace the labour in the first place. But isn’t it fantastic that the Symingtons have managed to preserve foot treading at Quinta da Vesuvio with the local community? I tasted a 2008 Quinta do Vesuvio (foot trodden) alongside a 2008 Senhora da Ribeira (robot trodden). Both made me purr with enjoyment (yummy with chocolate dessert by the way).

But was there a difference I hear you ask? I would have to say the Vesuvio was velvety and richer (a great testament to the terroir as well as the feet I am sure) compared to the more ‘feminine’ Senhora that was utterly silky (well done robots for your sheer elegance – pedicured?). Our Port buyer assures me that the 2008s will be delivered over the next couple of months to BBR. Can’t wait though to compare my foot rendition 2010 Quinta da Vesuvio with the robotic counterpart. It better be even more velvety with my efforts, otherwise I shall be extremely embarrassed…you will have to wait at least another couple of years for that treat…