When we arrived at Arribes del Duero, I was taken back by the rustic appearance of the area. It was as old and traditional as you can get. Modest, quaint little homes overlooking the beautiful Spanish countryside that stretched as far as the eye could see.
When we arrived we meandered through the winding streets of the old town. This place is home to over 1,000 wine cellars and we were allowed to explore a handful as our guide explained the history of Arribes del Duero.
Although some of the wine cellars have been modernised, many have been kept in their original form dating back decades. I was amazed to see how they were able to keep up with the modern cellars without the same equipment.
One of the vineyards we visited was El Hato y el Garabato. This was by far the highlight of the trip for me. The tiny winery is run by a family. Making a select number of bottles each year allows them to work directly in every stage of the process, from the grape on the vine to the cork in the bottle. This is artisanal producing at its best. I was greeted by the owners of the vineyard with such warmth and generosity, I won’t forget it. They are passionate about what they do and welcome visitors with open arms.
We were lucky enough to be extended an invite to their home where the wine is made. Meeting the couple’s daughters and even their amazing dog was such a lovely, personal experience.
Our accommodation for the night was Hotel Doña Urraca, a lovely little hotel nestled in the old town.
Our third day of the trip kicked off with a visit to the Douro Canyon and we were given a guided bird-watching tour of the area. The tour provided us with some amazing views overlooking the Douro River and the last kilometres of the Águeda River. During the tour, we were able to catch some glimpses of some of the beautiful wildlife that calls the area home.
In the second part of our day of activities, we were brought to Mermeladería “Oh Saúco”. These are local producers that respect and support sustainability using ecological and local raw materials. At a gastronomic workshop, we learned the process to make jams, applying them to both sweet and savoury recipes and then we enjoyed our efforts. It was a unique experience I really enjoyed.
After we were finished at our jam tasting, we were brought to our accommodation for the night. This was really something special. We were staying in the beautiful Hacienda Zorita National Reserve. The hotel consists of ten spectacular rooms surrounded by its own vineyards in the heart of a nature park. This hotel really encapsulates the feeling of luxury. The theme of delicious authentic Spanish cuisine continued for lunch.
To round up our day of fun, the group enjoyed a boat trip on the Douro Canyon. This is a gentle cruise on the Douro that allowed us to admire all the natural beauty of the Arribes del Duero Natural Park from the river. As you cruise past the riverbanks, the guide shares the history, landscape and features of the National Park.
On the last day of our trip, we all would have happily stayed. We did have time to fit in one more fun activity before departing for Madrid to catch our flight.
We were brought to another new experience for me. We attended a crash course in making clay plates with Numa Ceramica. During the class, you are encouraged to get creative with your design and are supplied with some unique tools to design your craft like leaves, flowers and seashells. This was another experience I wouldn’t have picked but really enjoyed.
The four day trip to Toro and Arribes del Duero showed areas bursting at the seams with potential and would be up there with any wine region. These destinations are authentic to the local culture, far from commercialised and the people welcome visitors with open arms. It’s a must whether a wine connoisseur or not. You can dip your toe into the tastings at local vineyards but local artisan produce and crafts will equally appeal to those looking to explore and try something new, a little off the beaten track.
I would recommend visiting either of the wine routes to anyone and hopefully, I will make my return soon. A special thanks to the Spanish Tourism Board again for a wonderful trip.
Jack Goddard reporting on a 3-night wine tasting trip to Toro in October 2021 with the Spanish Tourist Board flying direct from Dublin to Madrid with Ryanair and Iberia. For more information, contact your local travel agency.