In June 2015, ten members of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society spent a week travelling, eating and drinking in Northern Portugal, This series of posts documents their journey.
We left Harrogate just after four in the morning, drove to Manchester and caught the 07.20 EasyJet flight to Portugal. The flight was an hour late out of Manchester but was comfortable enough. Two hours and 2365 kms later, we were at Portugal’s second busiest airport after Lisbon – Porto’s Francisco Sa Carneiro International Airport. Manuel, the driver from Miles Away – our agent in the Douro, was waiting in Arrivals and soon we were on our way to Marialva. In the outskirts of the city, our minibus had a flat tyre. Manuel called for help and we walked over to roadside cafe to drink Sagres beer as the tyre was changed. It was very hot. The 217 km journey to Marialva took two and a half hours.
Marialva? You probably never heard of the place. The sleepy little village dating from Roman times, is situated in the far eastern corner of Portugal close to the Spanish boarder. You would think there is no earthly reason for any wine lover to stop here. But, Marialva on the cusp of the Douro and Beira Interior wine regions has robust wines such as Casas do Côro Beira Interior reds and whites. The wild and remote Coa Valley with its palaeolithic engravings is only a short distance away from the village.
As we drove up the motorway, we could see the fortified village sitting on top of hill and glistening in the fierce midday sun, surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. A narrow, winding road took us from the motorway through the newer part of the village and up the hill towards the castle and Casas do Coro, our base in Marialva. Old men and women sitting on stone steps in the shade, stopped their chatter to watch us labouring up the cobbled streets.
CASAS DO CORO
Casas do Côro is a collection of granite houses and cabins, with a pool, garden and restaurant. From the cabins, one could see the remains of the castle built in 1200 AD covering a rocky ridge overlooking the Bevesa Plain. Between the ruins of the outer castle wall and the crenellated keep, there are ruins of the old village. Marialva is one of the fortified towns built in the 17 – 18 C in Beira Alta to protect the frontier with Spain.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
My room was magnificent. It was in an elegantly furnished house overlooking the valley. The bedroom with a massive double bed led on to a terrace through glass patio doors. The view extended over the roof with sun lit red tiles to the little church in the village and the vineyards and hills beyond it.
LUNCH AT CASAS DO CORO
A pretty young woman in white gave each one of us a Panama hat before serving lunch on the terrace under the olive trees – cold vegetable soup, a salad with Iberian chorizo, seasonal fruit and chocolate cake with yogurt ice cream We washed it down with excellent Casas do Côro Beira Interior White and Casas do Côro Beira Interior Red Reserva. The wines, made by Douro winemaker Rui Madeira has Beira Interior varietals – Siria and Fonte Cal together with Codega, Rabigato and Viosinho in the white. The reds are a blend of Rufete, Alfrocheiro, Touriga Nacional and Mourisco. It was a long lunch. The food was excellent and the wine, superb.
I fell in love with Casas do Coro instantly. One night here, I felt, was never going to be enough.
Francisco Sa Carneiro International Airport
Pedras Rubras, 4470 Maiav, Portugal
IATA airport code: OPO
Phone: +351(0)229 432 400
MILES AWAY, Mafalda Nicolau de Almeida / Email: email@example.com / Cell Phone: +351 93 874 95 28
Address: Av. Dr. Artur Máximo Saraiva de Aguilar n.º 8 2.º Esq. 5150-540 Vila Nova de Foz Côa http://www.milesaway.pt