Upscale wine lovers throw lifeline to Portugal valley

  • Little Science Behind 'Pollen Vortex' Prediction

    Little Science Behind 'Pollen Vortex' Prediction

    Little Science Behind 'Pollen Vortex' Prediction

    Headlines warn of yet another bad allergy season stemming from this winter's polar vortex, but these dire annual predictions may be based more on guesswork than science. Count the pollen to know for sure. (April 25) …

  • Country Club for Exotic Cars

    Country Club for Exotic Cars

    Country Club for Exotic Cars

    There's a new country club of sorts for the well-heeled in Georgia. Instead of hitting golf balls down the fairway, members of the Atlanta Motorsports Park are driving some of the world's most exotic cars on a two-mile road course. (April 25) …

  • Today in History for April 25th

    Today in History for April 25th

    Today in History for April 25th

    Highlights of this day in history: Guglielmo Marconi born; America gets it name on world map; American and Soviet troops meet on Elbe river; Space shuttle Discovery deploys Hubble Space telescope; Ella Fitzgerald born. (April 25) …

Long kept hidden from the tourist hordes by poor roads, Portugal's Douro Valley is opening up its quintas, or port wine estates, to upscale tourists who are throwing it a lifeline in a bad economy.

Starting near the remote border with Spain and cascading downriver to the sea at Porto, the historic port-producing valley is home to dozens of large quintas and more than 31,000 small growers, a world away from sprawling seaside resorts.

Also home to one of Europe's largest prehistoric rock art sites, its terraced vineyards and raw natural beauty have made it a magnet for travellers with a taste for upscale, sustainable tourism -- and fine wine.

"If you come to the Douro, you're not the usual tourist," said Jorge Rosas, export manager for port shipper Ramos Pinto, whose family has been making the wine since 1880. "Either you are a wine lover or you love our unique landscape."

While the number of wine tourists to the region is stable, the amount each one spends is on the rise, said Rosalina Dias, manager at the Graham's Lodge visitor center in Vila Nova de Gaia, the historic wine district in Porto.

Responding to demand, port shippers have been investing in upscale lodgings at their quintas as well as restaurants, walking trails, tasting rooms, shops and museums -- even as the country labours under a second year in recession.

Overlooking the city of Porto, the 19th-century Graham's Lodge has been totally revamped with a spacious restaurant overlooking the city, tapas bar, VIP tasting room and a museum due to open in late summer.

"The emphasis will be on creating contemporary Portuguese food that matches with our wines," said Euan Mackay, sales director of Symington Family Estates, which owns Graham's and 26 quintas, showing AFP around the construction site.

So far 60,000 people come through the tasting room and store every year, and Mackay is betting that number will rise further.

Travelling up the Douro river, at the epicentre of the vineyard region, the picturesque Pinhao train station, first opened in 1880, now houses a posh wine shop.

"We were looking for a special place and the train company needed an investor who could renovate the building," said Paula Sousa, tourism manager for Quinta Nova, which restored the station's shop and built a museum on site at a cost of some 400,000 euros.

"This was one of the first stations in the region and the blue and white tiles on the station tell the story of port wine. We restored the shop, built a museum."

With visitors arriving from as far away as Brazil and Russia, entrepreneurs in the region are working to keep them coming back.

"The region has big potential -- every year there are new tourism ventures, showing a lot of innovation."

Until just recently, tourism was not an option for the Douro Valley.

"The region was protected by bad roads for centuries -- not only from tourists, but from the port shippers too!" Rosas explained.

But today, low-cost air carriers and European Union-financed highways make it possible to leave London in the morning and be sipping a glass of chilled tawny in Pinhao in the afternoon.

Even within the wine trade, the relationship with the region has changed. A generation ago, the port shipping families visited growers at harvest time and Easter, otherwise remaining in Porto.

"A few years ago, it was unthinkable to live in the Douro, but the new generation of winemakers love the Douro and want to live there," said Rosas.

"We believe in the quality of our wines, and the best way to grow quality grapes is to live near the vineyard," said Rosas. "I would also like to see quality tourism."

Wine tourism is increasingly looking like the boon Portuguese vintners need.

Domestic sales have nose-dived with the economic crisis and exports are difficult. Last year, the Port Wine Institute reduced production to adjust to demand, which left many growers struggling to make ends meet.

The Douro's other two crops, olive oil and almonds, struggle to compete with rivals from Italy and Spain on one hand, and California on the other.

"The situation is drastic," said Rosas. "Of course, we are trying to sell more wine, but it would be good if we didn't just rely on the vineyards.

"So tourism could be the answer."

Follow @YahooMalaysia on LINE for daily entertainment updates.

Loading...
  • Fiza, Adam kini sudah berbaik semula?
    Azizah Saleh - Tupai
    Fiza, Adam kini sudah berbaik semula? 1 hour 12 minutes ago
    Fiza, Adam kini sudah berbaik semula?

    Hubungan suami isteri pasangan Fiza Halim dan Adam AF dikatakan sudah pulih semula. …

  • Elaine Daly kembali bercinta dengan Hans Isaac?
    Azizah Saleh - Tupai
    Elaine Daly kembali bercinta dengan Hans Isaac? Thu, Apr 24, 2014 12:13 PM MYT
    Elaine Daly kembali bercinta dengan Hans Isaac?

    Mereka dikatakan telah bercinta semula kerana Hans memuat naik gambar mereka bersama keluarga masing-masing. …

  • Hafiz Suip nafi ambil dadah
    Azizah Saleh - Tupai
    Hafiz Suip nafi ambil dadah Thu, Apr 24, 2014 11:39 AM MYT
    Hafiz Suip nafi ambil dadah

    Penyanyi popular, Hafiz Suip didakwa mengambil dadah kerana dilihat semakin kurus sejak kebelakangan ini. …

  • Bieber leaves LA airport
    Cover Media
    Bieber leaves LA airport 8 hours ago
    Bieber leaves LA airport

    Justin Bieber entered the US on Thursday after hours of questioning by US Customs officials. …

  • Foxx’s electric Spidey date
    Cover Media
    Foxx’s electric Spidey date 8 hours ago
    Foxx’s electric Spidey date

    Jamie Foxx’s daughter wore unusual make-up to the Spider-Man premiere. …

  • Tidur berdengkur jejas kesihatan
    Azwa Iela - Tupai
    Tidur berdengkur jejas kesihatan 2 hours 24 minutes ago
    Tidur berdengkur jejas kesihatan

    Berdengkur menyebabkan seseorang tidak lena tidur malah menganggu ketenangan orang lain ketika tidur dan majoritinya terjadi pada kaum lelaki. …

  • Kanak-kanak montel, comel atau berpenyakit?
    Azwa Iela - Tupai
    Kanak-kanak montel, comel atau berpenyakit? Thu, Apr 24, 2014 11:17 AM MYT
    Kanak-kanak montel, comel atau berpenyakit?

    Tampak comel namun hakikatnya bayi yang montel berisiko menghidapi penyakit obesiti. …

  • "Wireless key finder", penyelamat anda
    Azwa Iela - Tupai
    "Wireless key finder", penyelamat anda Wed, Apr 23, 2014 4:47 PM MYT
    "Wireless key finder", penyelamat anda

    Adakah anda merupakan seorang yang pelupa dan selalu kehilangan kunci akibat terlupa di mana anda meletakknya? …

  • In US urban decay, ex-drug dealer is glimmer of hope
    Véronique Dupont - AFP News
    In US urban decay, ex-drug dealer is glimmer of hope 41 minutes ago
    In US urban decay, ex-drug dealer is glimmer of hope

    Amid the urban decay of Camden, New Jersey -- one of the poorest and most dangerous of US cities -- a former drug dealer who did prison time is pushing to give his community a new lease on life. "I was not supposed to be on this side of statistics -- to be alive, free, to take care of my kids," Anthony Dillard, now an entrepreneur and artist, told AFP. Together with his partner AJ Riggs, he created a fashion label last year -- "Made in Camden" -- in the aim of "restoring the morale and pride …

  • Five tips to protect your eyes
    Yahoo Newsroom
    Five tips to protect your eyes Mon, Apr 21, 2014 12:50 PM MYT
    Five tips to protect your eyes

    Just like every other part of your body, your eyes need to be protected too. …

Comments on Yahoo pages are subject to our link to Comments Guidelines. You are responsible for any content that you post. Yahoo is not responsible or liable in any way for comments posted by its users. Yahoo does not in any way endorse or support comments made by its users.