While port wine defines the central and far eastern reaches of the Douro, closer to Porto it’s vinho verde that holds sway, particularly around PENAFIEL, 35km east of Porto. The wine’s origins lie with the Benedictine monks, who first grew vines on precipitous valley terraces, while the Benedictine legacy also extends to a handful of glorious Romanesque churches secreted amid the hills hereabouts. However, despite the promise, Penafiel itself comes as something of a disappointment. The few old streets of granite mansions behind a handsome Renaissance Igreja da Misericórdia are barely reason enough to stop – certainly not if you’re reliant on public transport (the train station is 3km from the centre in any case). Drivers, however, have the option of a pleasant half-day’s tour, with wine tasting and church visits breaking up the journey along the Douro.
On Rua da Aveleda, the charming, ivy-festooned Quinta da Aveleda is source of the local vinho verde. The guided tours include a visit to the bottling hall, and a wine and cheese tasting (and there’s more on sale in the rather nice shop), but it’s really the gorgeously unkempt, wooded gardens and their follies that make the visit.