Port and the Douro Valley

The Douro Valley, home of Port in northern Portugal, is the oldest wine region and the most achingly beautiful.  Every wine lover should aspire to come here. But until fairly recently that was not so easy.  The place simply was not geared up for the discerning tourist.  That's changing, and thankfully, the new wave of chic hotels and restaurants and classy refurbishments of  older buildings, has avoided  crass commericial tourism.  Travel and accommodation in the region has been transformed.  But the landscape keeps  its electric excitement, remoteness and powerful sense of peace.

Scala School of Wine's Douro group wine tours offer an insider experience which is more exclusive and closer to the Port producers than any other.   The Scala flexible formula is based on our successful trips to Champagne and Bordeaux: Each one is carefully designed to your precise wishes and requirements. There is no pre-planned package you have to take or leave. You decide how to spend each day from options we give you in advance based on preferences you express.  We will tweak the itinerary until you are happy on every point and price.

Step 1:  HOW MANY AND WHEN? - Tell us about your group and dates.  We will guide and steward any group from two to thirty.  We try to keep single room supplements to a minimum.

Step 2:  SIMPLE TO DE LUXE? - What level of travel, accommodation and food you would like?  Good food and wine, from excellent restaurants to special private dinners, is very much part of a Scala tour.  And remember that the Douro region is now producing world class table wines as well as its classic fortified wines - just in case you were wondering about drinking too much delicious Port.

Step 3  HOW MAD ABOUT WINE ARE YOU?  Tell us what level of wine input, guiding and visits you would like, from beginner to connoisseur, including the balance of individual 'free' time and visits and wine tastings to producers as a group.   You will decide the wine tour you want.

Your trip could include flying to Oporto visiting Port lodges, the headquarters of major shippers such as those from the Graham's or Taylor's groups and staying the night at, say, the Sheraton Porto.  Then two days up in the Douro visiting top quintas (Port estates) and perhaps staying at the fabulous new Quinta da Romaneira (right) before taking one of the great rail journeys of the world back to Oporto and flying home.   These are just a few options from many we can show you with costings and no hidden extras.  Our price structure is crystal clear - no mark-ups on the services, travel, hotels and restaurants and one clear item for our organisation and the work of your wine expert communicator.  Your tour manager, Portuguese speaking and steeped in wine knowledge of the region, will accompany your group and smooth every inch of the way.  But you will not be chivvied or herded like tour company cattle.  Our guiding is ever available, never over the top, discreet and super-efficient.   Just go to our Contact page to be in touch, ask anything you wish and discuss a possible wine trip with your group.

How are we different from other wine packages?  The offer, based on a reputation earned with our Bordeaux and Champagne trips, is this:  you choose what you want in the programme from knowing all the options; and the level of contact with producers, the depth of information and the warmth and exclusivity of the welcome at wine estates will exceed what's on offer elsewhere.   The normal tourist simply could not open the doors we are luckily able to, because we have such an effective close relationship with our contacts in the wine trade.  Why not come with us to the Douro?


Going Into Port

This Is Your Captain Speaking

Oporto is 2hrs 20 minutes from London.  Flights are included at cost in our quote and you decide on airline, departure and airport.  Currently scheduled service Portuguese flag-carrier TAP fly from Gatwick. Ryanair go from Stansted.

And Easyjet begin a service from Gatwick in November 2009.

Staying in Port

Dropping Some Very Chic Anchors

Scala's trips typically involve one night in Oporto, staying perhaps in the riverside and discreet Hotel Pestana Porto or the stylish Sheraton Porto  (below) The next day go up country for a day or two in the Douro vastness itself, with a choice between several chic old-modern places such as the Aquapura Douro (top) or traditional wine quintas like Casa das Pipas at Quinta do Portal (below)

An alternative, utterly charming is Quinta de la Rosa (below)

For breathtaking luxury, the recent Quinta da Romaneira (below) is the ultimate wine destination. 


Food Report

Star Board...As Well As Port

Salt cod and pudim flan used to be standard fare in Douro restaurants; not so much now.  The Douro's best places are now authentic but cook for a more international clientele.  In Oporto, Foz Velha (below) is a leader Up in the valley, places like D.O.C (below) are setting new standards    The Almapura Restaurant (below) at the Aquapura Hotel can do for the soul what its name suggests

Go fetch a pint of port
But let it not be such that
You set before chance-comers,
But such whose father-grape grew fat
On Lusitanian summers


  Harvest (above) at Graham's Quinta dos Malvedos, echoed in the azulejos traditional blue and white tiled panels of Pinhão rail station (below) 

 All the grapes are trodden in the ancient way in stone vats or lagares (below) at the stellar Quinta de la Rosa























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