The Luxury Travel Bible - LUXURY RESORTS: Six Senses Douro Valley

LUXURY RESORTS: SIX SENSES DOURO VALLEY

Wine and Wellness in the heart of the Douro  

Winding through the heart-achingly lovely vine-scape of Portugal’s Douro Valley, it is easy to understand why the region is UNESCO World Heritage-Listed. Not only is it celebrated for its great beauty and as the traditional home of port wine, it claims the world’s oldest denominated wine region Denominacao de Origem Controlada (DOC), the equivalent of the French Appellation Controlee system.


 

Wine is woven into Portugal’s tapestry. DNA While port may still be seen by purists as the ‘gold standard’, the Douro is winning a formidable reputation as producer of high quality table wines. Meanwhile the locals have been thriving on the distinctive wines produced here from indigenous grapes since around 2000 BC. By the 1100s they had begun exporting wine to Britain forging cultural and trade-links that continue to this day. Many of the original, aristocratic brand names which still endure in the industry are English, Scottish and Dutch.

Winding through the heart-achingly lovely vine-scape of Portugal’s Douro Valley, it is easy to understand why the region is UNESCO World Heritage-Listed. Not only is it celebrated for its great beauty and as the traditional home of port wine, it claims the world’s oldest denominated wine region Denominacao de Origem Controlada (DOC), the equivalent of the French Appellation Controlee system.

Wine is woven into Portugal’s tapestry. DNA While port may still be seen by purists as the ‘gold standard’, the Douro is winning a formidable reputation as producer of high quality table wines. Meanwhile the locals have been thriving on the distinctive wines produced here from indigenous grapes since around 2000 BC. By the 1100s they had begun exporting wine to Britain forging cultural and trade-links that continue to this day. Many of the original, aristocratic brand names which still endure in the industry are English, Scottish and Dutch.

Our destination is Six Senses Douro Valley, a luxury wine and spa eco-resort set in an 18th century quinta (agricultural estate) near Lamego. Our driver tells us the journey will take around 75 minutes from Oporto, the picturesque port city where the ambrosial tipple used to arrive via traditional wooden barcas rabelos (barrel boats) to the waiting casks in Vila Nova de Gaia. En route to the resort, I request a brief deviation to Pinhao to see the beautiful railway station famed for its enchanting blue-tiled murals depicting heroic events in Portugal’s history and bucolic scenes of port production in the Douro. 

 

Back on track, our driver skilfully navigates the Mercedes around the challenging roads of the valley where vineyards planted both horizontally and vertically are interspersed with olives and almonds. Cascading down the slopes, they create an appearance of a quilted terrain. We can pick-out small sturdy-limbed grape-pickers. From a distance they appear to have one leg shorter than the other because of their gait clambering up and down the topsy-turvy, rocky terraces – often in searing heat. Generations of their ancestors toiled here for centuries in similar manner.  

At last we are standing on the terrace of Six Senses’ dusky-pink terra-cotta manor house alongside a burbling fountain. Like all guests we are transfixed by the view at our feet – the river Douro snaking lethargically through this deceptively gentle-looking valley with its meticulously groomed but tortuous, near-vertical slopes. An occasional tour boat passes below but no rabelos. Since 1964, they have been replaced by less-romantic, but presumably more efficient road transport.
Wafting from the wood-fired oven in the manor’s open kitchen are aromas of vegetables roasting with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, while drifting up from the garden below, fragrant herbs are making their statement. We investigate. 

 

The cleverly choreographed eight-hectare estate is defined by living walls of herbs, ivy, rosemary and lavender that shelter the organic vegetable garden, shimmering horizon pool, then lead down to an arboretum of centuries-old trees which dip down to the river. The property was originally known as Quinta Vale de Abraão. The name lives on at the all-day restaurant and terrace which features seasonal dishes sourced from the garden along with bountiful breakfast buffets and Portugal’s ubiquitous custard tarts. 

Six Senses Douro Valley is a 57-guest accommodation wine and spa experience whose concept has been reimagined by NY-based Clodagh Design resulting in a masterful blend of rustic charm and sophistication without compromising authenticity. Factor in outstanding service, luxury comforts, fine food and an exceptional spa in an unrivalled setting and you have a world-beating wine and wellness experience. 

The Wine Experience
Because of the estate’s provenance and situation, wine is the resort’s raison d’etre. Each evening, wine tastings are held in the superbly configured Wine Library with its long, sleek table set with glasses in readiness for tasting flights of wines.

There are more than 40,000 producers in the valley, most of them very small. The resort’s wine team of certified sommeliers have composed a Master Wine List of 700 wines from these local producers which represents a sensory journey upriver from Oporto, through the different terroirs of the Douro into neighbouring Spain.

If you feel a bit shy about tackling flights of wine in a slightly conspicuous setting, overcome your nerves and join in – it’s all very friendly, as everyone is here to taste, listen and learn. Or head for the Quinta Bar and Lounge which also offers tastings along with tapas and titbits. Then you can adjoin to the terrace for dinner overlooking that sublime view, the contemporary but atmospheric Dining Room if you prefer, or a beautifully-set table for two in a romantic niche in the garden.

 

The Spa Experience

Six Senses Douro is the first European property established by the eco-resort brand Six Senses a hotel and spa management company, which operates stunning environmentally-sensitive resorts in farflung locations of natural beauty. 

A fundamental feature of the resort is the magnificent spa which is a generous 2,200 square metre facility comprising 10 treatment rooms, heated indoor pool and gym featuring the latest equipment and professional guidance.

Their spa program offers a range of revered Asian holistic practices in a fusion of Eastern and Western results-based therapies that includes nutrition, acupuncture, meditation, relaxation, yoga, sports massage and physiotherapy  which are tailored to guests’ individual needs and performed by visiting practitioners. Best of all for many ‘me-time’ guests, is the menu of beauty indulgences.

Who ever said wine and wellness couldn’t be simpatico? 

Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas operates 11 resorts and 31 spas in 20 countries under the brand names Six Senses, Evason and Six Senses Spas.has a distinctive personality, but shares a commitment to community, sustainability, wellness and design. This award-winning approach extends to new openings, including the urban concept premiering in New York in 2019. 
Luxury Resorts Link: www.sixsenses.com
 Maggy Oehlbeck was a guest of Six Senses Douro. Posted 05/09/2019
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