Porto is famous for its wine. As well as the Port wine, the Douro Valley region just outside Porto produces some fabulous wines and a Douro Valley wine tour makes a wonderful day trip from Porto. I contacted Cooltour Oporto about one of their Porto wine tours which included transport to the Douro Valley, wine tasting and a Douro River Cruise from Pinhão, and was thrilled when they offered me a place.
I enjoyed a complimentary tour in exchange for my review, but all opinions are my own.
About Cooltour Oporto
According to their website, Cooltour Oporto has a young and dynamic spirit. Their mission is to promote and show the real Portugal to our clients in a genuine and passionate way. They run small group tours with a maximum of 8 people either on foot around Porto or in mini-vans around the Douro Valley and other areas of Northern Portugal.
Communication with the office team at Cooltour Oporto was friendly and efficient, including a gentle reminder that I had forgotten to give them my accommodation details for the pick-up on the morning of the tour.
The afternoon before my tour I had a confirmation of the pick-up time from my Airbnb, at a very precise 8.36am. I admit, I was sceptical about the timings, but when the guide Hugo turned up at the door at 8.37, I was impressed! And he was only late because he’d had to park just down the street.
Hugo spoke perfect English and once we were in the van, he introduced me to the other people on the tour, another solo traveller (yey!) from Bulgaria, a mother and daughter from Australia and we picked up an American couple at the next stop. Then we were on our way, quickly navigating through the morning traffic in Porto and onto the motorway. Most of the hour and a half drive to the Douro Valley was on motorways, but once we arrived in the valley there were some narrow windy roads to contend with, so I was glad I sat in the front to avoid any feelings of motion sickness!
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Our Douro Valley Wine Tour
Our first stop on the tour was an impromptu one, which isn’t on the itinerary, but Hugo suggested we call into the bakery in the village where his grandparents live to pick up some fresh bread. Well, who are we to deny the man fresh bread?? The village was tiny and had beautiful views over the valley – and the bread was delicious. We went inside the bakery where Hugo showed us the oven where the ladies in the bakery made the bread, and we bought one to take with us.
Our next stop was for a quick bite to eat and a coffee to make sure we had something in our stomachs before hitting the wine! It didn’t feel necessary, but I suppose they know from experience that having a bunch of tourists drinking wine on an empty stomach isn’t a good idea!
Wine Tasting in the Douro Valley
After our pit-stop, we went to the first winery, Vehla Geração. The lady who met us there was lovely, and she poured out some olive oil and honey for us to taste, with more delicious bread. Then we tried three wines – a white, a rose and a red – as she explained the grape varieties and the flavours in the wine. The winery had built a very modern tasting area with a terrace which looked out across the valley, and although the juxtaposition of an old winery with the shiny new terrace was a little odd, the view was incredible.
Hugo said that our next stop would be the (optional) river cruise and suggested that if we wanted to buy some wine here to enjoy on the cruise that this was the time to do it…. Having trusted his last suggestion about the bread, I didn’t see any reason to doubt him this time and clubbed together with the other solo traveller to buy a bottle of white wine to share on the boat. It was €10, and well worth it!
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Lunch in Pinhão
As it happened, we spent rather too long here enjoying the wines and the view, so we went for lunch before the cruise. Hugo took us to a restaurant I never would have gone into alone, above the local fire station in Pinhão. We were served huge plates of food, with hot roasted chicken, codfish croquettes, fried potatoes, rice, salad, and black-eyed-peas. I gave it a good try, but we couldn’t manage to finish all the food, but it was all delicious. And then we had dessert! A piece of cake finished off the meal, all accompanied with vinho verde, green wine which is from the region.
We headed into the town to visit the beautiful Pinhão train station which is decorated in blue azulejo tiles, like many of the old train stations I had seen in Portugal. The designs on the tiles told the stories of wine production in the Douro Valley, how they transported the wine along the Douro River, and of the perils of the river which claimed lives many years ago.
Our Mini Douro River Cruise
Pinhão quay on the Douro River is close to the station, but as we approached I started to get little nervous about being on a boat as I’m not great with waves and water – especially after wine! However, I needn’t have worried as the river cruise was surprisingly smooth, even when the wind got up on our return journey. We poured a cup of the wine that we had bought, cheered and admired the view.
All along the river, fields of vines stretch over the fields. According to Hugo the best time to visit would be during the autumn when the leaves are changing colours and the bulk of the tourists have left. It was very quiet in January when I visited, but I could imagine it being extremely popular in the summer! This Douro River cruise lasted about an hour, we went 30 minutes down the river, then turned and came back the same way. It was fairly short but enough to get a good idea of the scale of wine production in the Douro Valley and to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
It is possible to arrange Douro River Cruises which leave from Porto, but for me, this was just the right length, especially as the rain was on its way!
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Port Wine Tasting
Our last stop was to another small winery and port producer called Quinta Santa Eufemia, where we visited the cellar where the port was stored and tried 5 different types of port. By now you could tell we had been drinking wine all day!
My favourite port was actually the rose port, which isn’t very common, and I think the lady was disappointed that was my favourite. I’m not a red wine connoisseur so the ruby and tawny ports are not really my thing. However, I’m really glad we got to try all of them, so I didn’t need to do a port tour in Porto as well as the wine tour. We had the chance to buy anything we wanted here as well, so I decided on a box of four types of port in small bottles, a gift for my dad which I could (just) fit in my hand luggage.
After that, we headed back to the van, and back to Porto. The journey back took longer than expected as there was heavy rain and dense fog over hills, but Hugo got us all back safe and sound.
What I Loved About our Douro Valley Wine Tour
Our guide, Hugo, was lovely – he spoke better English than I do, and was friendly and chatty and clearly passionate about sharing the best of Portugal with us. I loved how we visited small wineries and producers, not the larger famous named ones, and all the wine we tasted was delicious!
Anything I Didn’t Like?
Absolutely nothing to do with Cooltour Oporto, but the drive home seemed to take a long time – due to the weather. Perhaps being able to stop off somewhere along the way for a bathroom break would have been useful, after so much liquid during the day!
I really enjoyed the tour, and although I had considered spending the night in Pinhão I was more than happy with taking a day tour. If you are looking for a Douro Valley wine tour, I highly recommend Cooltour Oporto!
You can book your Douro Valley wine tour on the Cooltour Oporto website here. The tour costs €100 including transport, wine tasting, port tasting, lunch, Douro River cruise and guide.
Have you tasted any Douro Valley wines? Would you like to take a Douro River cruise? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.
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