Go local and take part in the grape harvest

If your mindset when traveling is looking for the most authentic, experiential ways to “go local”  – plus, you consider yourself a wine lover, then we suggest you add the “vindimas (grape harvest) to your bucket list of must-do experiences in Portugal 

Portugal is a country with strong wine traditions. The excellent quality of its wines is recognized across the world with numerous awards and distinctions won in international competitions. To know and appreciate the wines, there’s nothing like visiting the regions where they are produced. Visiting vineyards is also an excellent way to also take in the landscapes, heritage, culture and meet the people who live there. 

The harvest is one of the most eagerly awaited moments in Portugal´s wine-growing regions, for farmers and visitors alike.  It is one of the oldest wine-related activities in Portugal and certainly one of the most genuine and traditional ones.

The exact day of the harvest changes every year, depending on the weather, grape species, vineyard location, temperature, and humidity, among other factors, but it usually happens in September and October. Several wineries offer special harvest programs in which you can participate in the harvest with the locals, and help make wine from the grapes by the stomping method – some wineries even let you take home a bit of the result of your labor! Can you imagine sharing with friends a bottle of wine that you helped produce?

The grape harvest is a great family experience
The grape harvest is a great family experience, © José Sarmento Matos.

Grape harvests take place all over Portugal, but one of the best places to participate in them is in the Douro Valley. As the oldest demarcated wine region in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Douro Valley landscape is especially impressive at harvest time. The terraces are layered in red and purplish tones, the landscape is dressed in green, red, and brown, and this truly magical place is graced with pleasantly warm weather.  

Grapes on their way to becoming wine
Grapes on their way to becoming wine, © José Sarmento Matos.

The harvest ritual starts with picking the grapes by hand, which is what makes it is so special. Groups of pickers fill the baskets and carry them on their backs to large stone tanks called lagares, where a group of workers stomps on the grapes to squash and release the liquid from them. The harvest is a festive celebration, so this work happens to the sound of someone marking a rhythm with a song. Workers embrace each other and stomp in a characteristic, synchronized movement. After the wine is produced, filtered, and fortified with a local spirit, it is stored in wooden barrels. The duration of storage varies depending on the wine. 

Rows of tanks at Setubal Caves Jose Maria Fonseca
Rows of tanks at Setubal Caves José Maria Fonseca, © CM Setubal.

You can take part in every step of the grape harvesting process, from picking the grapes to treading on them with your bare feet, always with a magnificent view of the Douro landscape. Now, pour yourself a glass of Portuguese wine, pull out your agenda and put the vindima season in Portugal at the top of your travel bucket list. 

Come to Portugal and make memories with us! Cheers! 

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