Port lovers who wanted to learn more about Portugal's fortified wines have long walked the streets of Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Porto, visiting the lodges where much of the Port is stored before being shipped. But a new wine-focused hotel will allow them to get closer to the source of these wines, upriver in the heart of the Douro Valley.
The Amorim Group--which owns the world's largest cork operation and more than 30 hotels in Portugal and other countries--opened the Hotel Rural Burmester in late June on its Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo estate, just downriver from Pinhão, in the upper Douro Valley. While other quintas offer guest rooms, Amorim says the property is the area's first true hotel at a winery.
Guests can explore the sights of the valley, attend multiday wine-tasting courses and help harvest the grapes. The hotel houses a restaurant, featuring dishes focused on local ingredients, and a bar. The vineyard was first planted before 1758, and the wine cellar dates to 1764. The estate's manor and baroque chapel were both built in the 18th century.
"We decided to build the hotel about three years ago," said Luísa Amorim, executive director. "The idea of a wine hotel came after we saw similar projects in France and the U.S."
The Douro's beauty is rugged and stark. The vineyards are planted in terraces of slate and schist on perilously steep hills above the river. The climate is Mediterranean, but temperatures can rise above 110 degrees F in the summer. Thankfully, the hotel has a pool.
The Amorim Group took the wine theme to heart when it created the hotel. Designers used local materials such as slate and cork in the interiors, and painted the six suites and five rooms in different wine shades.
Ironically, the hotel opened just as the Amorim Group sold the Burmester and Gilbert's brands, which date back to 1750, to the Spanish wine company Sogevinus. Amorim sold the brand names, the stocks and the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, which it had owned since 1999, but kept the rights to use the Burmester name with the hotel.
Amorim also kept Burmester's two key vineyards, quintas Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo and São Cibrão, and plans to focus on smaller productions of high quality Ports and red table wines from the Douro. Burmester was a respected Port producer, but Amorim executives felt it was not big enough to compete in its segment of the market. The company tried to add another large house, Sandeman, to its roster in 2001, but lost out to Sogrape.
"We once tried to buy Sandeman, but that was not possible, and Burmester was a high quality company with no scale," said Luísa. "Our plan for the quinta is to build more and better wines, after we have invested in a full and modern winery and 55 new hectares [136 acres] of vines."
Hotel Rural Burmester
Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo
5085-222 Covas do Douro
Telephone: (011) 351-254-730-430
Web site: www.hotelburmester.com
Rates: 75-130 euros
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard