Douro Valley Wine Tours and the Solar de Mateus
Solar de Mateus
In the heart of Portugal’s Douro Valley near the large town of Vila Real, capital of Tras-os- Montes (lit. “behind the mountains”), sits the Solar de Mateus manor, a species of lady Palace Tartine crossed with a garden the likes of which you might find in Alice’s Wonderland – a must see on Douro Valley wine tours.
Everything seems extravagant and dreamlike: high puffy white pinnacles that lengthen ornate roofs, old women in straw hats who tirelessly weed impeccable fairways between box hedges carved to the millimeter, pious or secular jumble of objects from around the world crammed into a wooded interior where the floors creak… This strand of baroque and intricacy of the eighteenth century, which overlooks a large pool, is the work of an Italian architect, Nicolau Nasoni. It was built for a noble family whose name was so long that Louis Philippe d’Orléans in a letter of 1819 – still visible in the museum – preferred to simplify the name to “Count de Souza etc, etc, etc.” Perhaps a measure of the colorful characters associated with the Solar de Mateus.
Douro Valley Wine Tours
The Alto Douro wine region was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.The wine region was included in the World Heritage List, based on the following criteria:
- The Upper Douro region has been producing wine for nearly 2,000 years and its landscape has been molded by human activities.
- The elements of the Alto Douro landscape are representative of the full range of activities associated with winemaking: land, quintas (wine-producing farm complexes), villages, chapels, and roads.
- The cultural landscape of the Alto Douro is an outstanding example of a traditional European wine producing region, reflecting the evolution of this human activity over time.
The Douro Valley wine region is currently one of Europe’s most interesting. The producers, who previously were content to provide the grapes, now work for themselves, produce wine and the experience of wine-making and production has increased.
They have a better knowledge of and make better use of the soil and the typical characteristics of their land. One of the main advantages is that producers work in cooperation with each other; they understood the need to market their excellent wines together and to position the Douro wine region in an appropriate manner on the market.
The fact that the original varieties continue to be grown in the Douro wine region and have not been replaced by foreign vines is an invaluable advantage. This feature combined with excellent geological and climatic conditions ensures the independence and outstanding wines of the Douro.