Food, Wine and More in PortugalFebruary 8, 2008 By: Jennifer Merritt Home-Based Travel Agent
New and old properties provide luxury, while culinary and wine tours make Portugal the place to go for foodies and oenophiles
Portugal attracts visitors interested in history, architecture and food and wine, but everyone has to eat and drink, right? It may be worth gauging a client's interest in taking a wine tour or setting up an authentic dinner and wine pairing at a vineyard during a stay in Portugal, no matter if the itinerary is focused on culture, history or simply lying on the beach.
Portugal's tourism office (www.visitportugal.com) has a busy schedule over the next few years, as the country has 47 resort properties debuting through 2011. Hoteliers involved include Starwood (www.starwoodhotels.com), Almeida (www.almeidahotels.com),
Hilton (www.hilton.com) and Pousadas de Portugal (www.pousadas.pt).
The Pousadas group is a collection of 44 unique accommodations in castles, palaces and former monasteries and convents that date back several centuries. These properties, most of which are situated in Portugal's more rural and natural areas, pride themselves on maintaining and restoring the country's heritage. Some Pousadas have swimming pools, and each has a restaurant that serves regional cuisine and wines in addition to an international menu. The commission rate for agents is 5 percent.
In Santa Luzia in the Alentejo region, Pousada de Elvas offers 24 twin rooms and one double room. All are equipped with cable TV, air conditioning, a minibar, phone and private bathrooms. The best rooms to book depend on a client's needs. While the double may provide the most comfortable sleeping arrangements, three of the twin rooms have balconies overlooking the pool, the garden or the city. On the menu at Pousada de Elvas are local specialties like codfish, pork trotters, vegetable soup and, of course, wine made in the Alentejo. For reservations, speak with any staff member of the hotel at 011-351-268-637-470 or e-mail [email protected].
In the Douro valley, recommend a stay at Aquapura (www.aquapurahotels.com), a repurposed 19th-century manor house. It comprises 50 guest rooms, including a Presidential Suite, as well as 21 luxury villas that have one to three bedrooms. The surrounding wine country is an integral part of the experience at this hotel, which is set among the vineyard cliffs and near the Douro River. After a long day of sightseeing and sampling the regional food and wine, schedule a treatment at the hotel's renowned spa, which features a thermal suite and an indoor swimming pool. Contact Tania Garcia ([email protected]).
The tourist offices of Portugal and Spain have teamed up to promote the Iberian peninsula as a must-see destination in Europe through PortugalSpainBoth.com. The web site highlights places to visit and things to see and do in both countries, from arts and culture to wine and food to special events.
In addition to catching the interest of consumers online, the joint campaign hopes to involve the trade by allowing U.S.-based tour operators and suppliers to accept bookings directly from the web site.
For something wine-specific, we have a few options for you. First up is Paris-based BK Wine (www.bkwine.com) from proprietor Britt Karlsson, who conducts wine tours and tasting classes for both beginners and experienced wine lovers. From October 22 to 26, Karlsson will host a four-night tour to the Douro region, with two nights (the first and the last) in Porto and the second and third nights close to Pinhão. The trip will focus both on port and red table wines from Douro and include several private wine tastings. Guests will visit famous wine producers like Symington, Quinta de la Rosa and Dirk Niepoort, as well as some high-quality newcomers. Lunches will be primarily at the wine estates. As the program has not been finalized, it is not certain if dinners will be included in the program or if evenings will be free for clients to explore on their own. BK Wine also develops customized tours with agents and offers a 10 percent commission on all bookings. Call 011-33-6-8045-3570 or e-mail [email protected].
The British company Arblaster & Clarke (www.winetours.co.uk) has added 17 wine tours to its repertoire, including an October 6-10 trip to Douro hosted by Charles Metcalfe, an editor of Wine Magazine and an opera singer. This trip visits vineyards during the harvest season, with exclusive dining invitations and exceptional port and wine tastings at world-class port lodges and quintas (farmhouses). Prices start at £1,899 (approximately $3,720) per person, which includes accommodation, tastings and some meals. Agents can contact Maureen at [email protected]. Arblaster & Clarke pays a minimum 5 percent commission.
Wine Tours of the World (www.winetoursoftheworld.com) operates trips for groups or for customization. On its Portugal programs, clients visit several port lodges, enjoy wine-pairing dinners, go to historical sites and landmarks and take private wine tours and cooking classes. Special options include a VIP tour and tasting at a port house, visits to the oceanside towns of Viana do Castelo and Praia, culinary tours of Lisbon and tastings at an Alentejo wine estate. Packages can be tailored to budget, preferred accommodation or even a client's favorite wines. Contact Brian Olson, tour and travel reservations manager, at 888-635-8007 or [email protected] or Denise Smith, tour and travel group specialist, at 888-635-8007, [email protected]. Commission is 12 percent on package tours, excluding travel insurance and air.
Airlines flying to Portugal from the U.S. include the national carrier, TAP Portugal (www.flytap.com), plus American (www.aa.com),
Continental (www.continental.com) and US Airways (www.usairways.com). Most major European carriers—such as British Airways (www.britishairways.com),
Air France (www.airfrance.com) and Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com)—fly to Portugal from points within Europe and, after "open skies" goes into effect in March, perhaps from the U.S. as well.