Douro Valley

Taste your way to a traditional Portuguese Christmas

09 Dec, 2021

We explore the wonderful world of Quinta do Noval.

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The Quinta do Noval estate – with its white-walled terraces dating back almost a century, and situated high above the town of Pinhão, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site – has always been at the frontier of the Port industry. First registered in 1715, back when jolly St Nick was still sporting green robes, the Quinta is known for respecting heritage while keeping one eye firmly on the future.

Quinta do Noval estatePhoto credit: Quinta do Noval – S. Chapuis – 2018

A long line of innovation can be traced through Noval’s history; from the release of one of the first Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Ports with the 1954 vintage, through to the launch of Noval Black Reserve, a new-age port style to be enjoyed chilled or used as a cocktail ingredient – and the recent introduction of award-winning red and white tables wines, some including specially-planted international grape varieties.

Historically, and before the advent of air conditioning, picturesque sailing boats called barcos rabelos were a commonplace sight, bringing wines down from the quintas and vineyards along the River Douro to lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia. In this town, on the south bank of the river and facing Porto to the north, is the commercial heartland of Port’s wine industry. With warehouses dotted about the landscape, it is here where the Port is traditionally matured due to the river’s moderating and cooling influence.Quinta do Noval ChristmasView from outside the Villa Nova de Gaia tasting rooms. 

Not so for Quinta do Noval, who are one of the few producers in the region to blend and age their Ports beside the land where the grapes are grown in the Pinhão Valley – in huge air-conditioned cellars carved into the hillside below the vineyards. So now both the historic warehouse in Vila Nova de Gaia and one of the old cellars in Pinhão have been converted into tasting rooms, shops and ‘places of discovery’ for visitors and lovers of port.

Quinta do NovalPhoto credit: Quinta do Noval – S. Chapuis – 2018

In Vila Nova de Gaia – just Gaia to the locals – visitors to Noval’s tasting room can sample a range of Noval’s ports, as well as indulging in a festive Port and chocolate pairing with chocolates produced especially for the Quinta. And all the while, the knowledgeable staff will take you through the history of this much respected Port House.

Quinta do Noval estateInside the Villa Nova de Gaia tasting rooms. 

Some 130km to the west, upriver in Pinhão, Noval’s brand-new, two-story visitors’ centre is set beside the waterfront of the River Douro. Here guests can taste a range of both still and fortified wines including some iconic vintages and take part in an immersive experience which includes a specially-shot video for a true taste of the terroir and unique character of the Quinta do Noval estate.

Quinta do Noval estateInside the Villa Nova de Gaia tasting rooms. Photo credit: Quinta do Noval – 2020

This trend towards forward and creative thinking however does nothing to stem the Quinta’s faithfulness to tradition. From the beginning of the Port wines’ journey – trodden by foot in traditional stone lagares – to the finish, when vintage Ports are sometimes opened up using heated port tongs to avoid the risk of a crumbling cork. Another practical and age-old tradition.

This tong technique does mean guests need to imbibe the bottle in one sitting, but with the notoriously friendly Portuguese disposition they wouldn’t want it any other way.

Quinta do Noval estatePhoto credit: Quinta do Noval – 2010 – photo: Pulsive

Get-togethers are a big part of life here, especially at Christmas, with the festive season incomplete without everyone gathering around and tucking into a Bolo Rei or King’s Cake. Eaten between Christmas day and Epiphany on 6th January, this brioche textured, wreath shaped delight is enriched with lashings of nuts, raisins, crystallised fruits and garnished with port-infused glace cherries. Hidden inside is a dried fava bean and gold coin – the recipients of which are bestowed with either good luck or made to buy next year’s cake.

Quinta do Noval estateIt is often said that ‘you have to taste a culture to understand it’ so to truly involve yourself, if you are in Porto, contact Quinta do Noval to pre-arrange a tasting of a selection of Noval’s Ports for the festive season, and including almonds, cheeses and local charcuterie.

How to visit

Vila Nova de Gaia Tasting room and shop

Open: 7 days a week

  • From October to May: 10.30am – 6.30pm
  • June, July and September: 11am – 8pm
  • August: 11am – 10pm

Address: 256 av. Diogo Leite, Vila Nova de Gaia

Contact: Rosario Freitas / Phone: +35 22 377 02 82 /

Pinhão tasting room and shop


  • November to Easter: 10.30am – 1pm / 2pm – 7.30pm | Closed Sunday and Monday
  • Easter to October: 10.30am – 7.30pm | 7 days a week

Address: 15 Rua da Praia, 5085 Pinhão

Contact: Paula S. SILVA / Phone: +351 259 104 194 /

*Photo credit hero image: Quinta do Noval omdesign 2018

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