Douro Valley - best time to visit
The Douro wine region as a singular charm in every season but in September and October is at its best. The harvest season is the time of the year of more hard work but also of great joy.
Usually, harvest in Douro happens from mid-September to mid-October. But all this can change according to weather and climate conditions. Don't worry ... you'll find, at least, a few wine estates harvesting at the time of your trip. The conditions can differ quite a lot even among estates. There's always something going on.
Douro is the oldest demarcated wine region with a denomination of origin, in the world. Since 1756.
In Douro, grapes are only picked when they are perfect and ready. Everything else will have to wait. Here, life has a different rhythm, and you'll be able to feel that immediately. Harvesting is a very slow process, a great part of it due to the fact that almost everything is still manual. First, because of the landscape and the way they built the vineyards and then, because people refuse to it differently. No ... they are not being stubborn ... they know that this way they'll make perfect wines - tradition.
Besides the world famous Port Wine, amazing red and white wines are also produced - the Douro DOC wines.
You'll be more than welcome at the estates, and in most of them they allow visitors to watch them work. Trucks carrying big baskets filled with grapes moving around, the workers at the vineyards, and already an aroma in the air is something else to expect. Now, you just need to decide if you'll stay for the party ...
What's special during the harvest in Douro?
Besides the visits to the estates and the wine tastings than you can book all year, there are 2 extra "features" that takes this wine country uniqueness to new levels - the wine estates go live and you can actually participate in wine making process.
For the first one, if you choose carefully the wine estates to visit you'll be able to see the workers bringing the grapes from the vineyards, do the selection process and taking them to the winery. A tour guide or someone from the estate will explain the entire process.
But, the most interesting, and also more exclusive, it's called "Lagarada". It happens always at the end of the day, when all the grapes are at the winery, inside big stone tanks called "Lagar", ready to the crushed. So, you'll dress up accordingly, get into the tank, and stomp the grapes yourself. All this with live traditional music. A typical harvest dinner can also be booked.
How about November?
The harvest is over but the weather is quite pleasant, still the aroma of wine in the air (the grapes left on the floor start to turn raisins) and all the green from the vineyards turns brown and red.
The Fall in the Douro Valley is quite impressive, and the amount of visitors is much less.