The Douro valley combines two of my greatest passions: wine and stunning landscapes. The vertiginous hillsides along the river Douro, sculpted by century old terraced vineyards, is home to one of Portugal’s most prized products, Port wine. I enjoy it cool and fizzy as a summer aperitif, velvety and spirituous to go with coffee or chocolate, or even reduced to make the perfect sauce.
The valley is dotted with “Quintas”, the wine making estates, who come in various degrees of charm and jaw dropping perspectives. Ranking very high in both categories is Quinta do Crasto. The estate enjoys a commanding position atop a steep hill on the right bank of the river. The compound, which includes not only the wineries but also the shop and a charming guest cottage, stretches uphill in an almost cervical fashion. As I climb up towards the lovely main house the views keep getting more and more spectacular, and what seemed an unmissable photo spot is quickly outshined by an even better one. But the best is yet to come: carved in the rock at the very top of the promontory lies an infinity pool designed by Pritzker recipient Eduardo Souto de Moura. Words fail me.
Tours of the winery are hugely popular with tourists, and the large terrace around the house is constantly buzzing with guests and visitors enjoying delicious comfort food paired with the estates produce while gazing at the glorious vista.
Quinta do Crasto hails back to the 17th century, and it has been in the hands of the current owners for the last hundred years, producing port under the label “Constantino”. Around 1994, Leonor and Jorge Roquette started bottling and selling Port and Douro wine under the label Quinta do Crasto, aiming to put dry wines at the same level of Port in terms of quality and recognition. Now-a-days it’s up to his son Tomás Roquette to oversee the production of the Quinta’s extensive catalogue: eleven Douro Wines, four Ports, and three olive oils. Among them are the exceptional Vinha da Ponte and Vinha Maria Teresa, two much sought after Portuguese wines. Tomás is lively and fun, and you can’t help but share his passion for the place. Projects abound, but this is a family of well-grounded farmers.
A very well-healed and worldly character, Tomás has a no-nonsense approach, passing up on grandiosity and carefully measuring his heirlooms future. The wine business takes centre stage, and large vineyards have recently joined the brands portfolio. As larger guest facilities and additional rooms are in the works, more people will hopefully have the privilege of enjoying the Roquette’s hospitality. And they sure know how to host.
Quinta do Crasto