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Travel: Wine & Wellness

Venetia van Kuffeler discovers this unbeatable combination at Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal

“In the Douro Valley we have nine months of winter and three months of hell!” exclaimed our driver. We were on our way to Six Senses Douro Valley, driving on the A4, a spectacular new road that winds through misty mountains and long tunnels, connecting Porto with Spain. This was an expression we heard time and time again over our three days in Portugal, and refers to the boiling hot summers in the Douro Valley where the temperatures soar well above 40 degrees. As we later found out, it is these unique conditions that create the terroir producing the region’s fantastic wine.

After 11 successful openings across Asia and the Middle East, Six Senses Douro Valley is the brand’s first European resort. Located in the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage area of the Douro Valley and 88 miles from Porto International Airport, Six Senses has certainly stayed true to its heritage of creating exceptional guest experiences in places of incredible beauty. Locals describe the Douro Valley as the most beautiful wine region in the world, and it’s not hard to see why. The vines live up to 900 metres on terraced hillsides along the Douro River with quintas (farms/estates) extending along the almost vertical slopes of the steep valleys.  The region was the first in the world to be demarcated in 1756, and it is a land where traditions and modernity go hand-in-hand. Today, the harvest is often still done by hand and the squashing of the grapes by foot, but these traditions are often combined with the most modern of vinification processes. In addition to wine, the region’s fertile soil also yields olive and almond trees, all produce that we enjoyed throughout our stay.

Over 22 acres, Six Senses contains 57 guest rooms and suites with stunning river views, along with a handful of villas for families or groups. Rooms have been created using eco-friendly materials blending nature, Portuguese tradition and smatterings of luxury, but its not over the top.  The restaurant draws on the abundant fresh produce of the valley and surrounding countryside, as well as the property’s vegetable gardens. Chef Paulo Matos embraces local flavours, encouraging guests to share plates, often created using traditional open fire ovens and clay pots. The Wine Library hosts daily tastings accompanied by tempting local charcuterie and cheeses. The resort’s Wine Directors guide guests through the leading vintages  offered by the top Portuguese winemakers in the surrounding valley. Top wine magazine Wine Spectator recently ranked three wines from Douro in its top five, and with over 80 grape varieties in Douro, guests can participate in every stage of the wine making process, from planting to stomping and eventually blending their own wine. We learn that 1963, 1994, 2009 and 2011 are exceptional years for wine and port from the Douro.   Guests are provided with a wine card on arrival, and can help themselves to a selection of wines by the glass as and when they please.

We made an interesting visit to Quinta do Bomfim, the Symington family estate that makes Graham’s, Dow’s, Warre’s and Cockburn ports among others. Its visitor centre has a museum containing old winemaking and vineyard equipment, and naturally, our tour included a tasting. Located just half an hour an hour up the valley, we took the opportunity to have lunch on the way at the stylish D.O.C. restaurant, taking in magnificent views of the river and valley while we ate.

Back at the property, the expansive Six Senses Spa offers a wide range of holistic wellness, rejuvenation and beauty treatments. My massage was in a class of its own, completely tailor-made and focused on my needs. There are 10 treatment rooms, an indoor swimming pool, steam room, sauna and Lanconium. A visiting practitioner programme features over 100 of the world’s best wellness healers, practitioners and experts. The resort recently launched a new programme ‘Sleep With Six Senses,’ with internationally renowned Sleep Doctor Michael J. Breus Ph.D. Recognised as the most important contributor to an individual’s health, I learn that over 50 per cent of adults are not satisfied with their sleep – be it the quality or amount they are having. Dedicated Sleep Ambassadors fine-tune the guest rooms each evening to ensure optimum sleep conditions, and a personalised programme of spa treatments and activities is also offered to improve sleep, along with a selection of sleep aids including bamboo fibre pyjamas, eye mask, earplugs, nose strips and jasmine pillow spray.  A Withings Aura Sleep Tracker/app (that guests then take home) is reviewed daily.

There’s no danger of getting bored at Six Senses, as other activities on offer include bird watching, cooking classes, picnics, boat trips, mountain biking, kayaking, rafting, helicopter tours and even tree climbing.  Of course, there’s the latest exercise equipment on site – even aerial yoga – and a series of meditation nests are dotted about the forest.

With wine and wellness as the resort’s top two priorities, it’s not hard to see why Six Senses Douro Valley is a wonderful place to visit.  The luxurious property does an excellent job of embracing all that this spectacular region has to offer. We certainly came back feeling rested and calmer. With the new road opening six months prior to our arrival, making travel to the region so much easier, there’s definitely a sense that this is an emerging destination for the sophisticated traveller.

Six Senses Douro Valley – Portugal   T: +351 254 660 600
E: reservations-dourovalley@sixsenses.com   W: www.sixsenses.com



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