30 November 2008

the douro valley

Port wine starts here, in the Douro Valley. After the grapes are harvested and crushed, the juice spends the winter in the valley, then makes its way downriver to the warehouses in Porto where it gets blended and aged.

The terrain of the Douro Valley is difficult, and the soil very rocky. The steep slopes require major terracing, and the poor soil doesn't allow much to grow other than grapes, olives, and almonds, all requiring roots to reach deep down to find water—some extending more than 50 feet through fissures in the schist.

I took the train into the Douro to the town of Régua (also called Peso da Régua). It was rainy and I didn't have a car so I couldn't explore the countryside, but there was a small (and interesting) museum on the Douro Valley and port wine that kept me occupied for hours. The train ride itself, though, winding alongside the river, was worth the trip alone.

[Note: I've given up trying to get this thing to upload my video of the train ride, so have posted stills from it instead. Click on the image and you'll see a larger version.]

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