Toasting the grape harvest
Jack Montgomery, 16 February, 2018
The Minho is famous for being a particularly green area of Portugal, but the lively processions and vibrant floral displays of the vindima celebrations turn this usually serene land into a riot of sound and colour...
"You've just missed the biggest festa of the year, the Feiras Novas," the waitress tells us as we tuck into petiscos (Portuguese tapas) which include alheira sausage, octopus, codfish cakes, and chopped up pigs' ears. Outside the restaurant's window is a procession of musicians and dancers in traditional dress. "That's for the vindima," she remarks. "September is also the time of the grape harvest."
The following day, as we bid farewell to Ponte de Lima, we pass a convoy of tractors pulling trailers on which are large wooden casks brimming with grapes. During the vindima's height 2000 farmers a day bring grapes to Ponte de Lima's wine cellar; so many that some have to wait all night to deliver their harvest.
Crossing the town's Medieval bridge, a South American beat serenades our ears. It remains with us as we walk. At times it's a faint whisper on the breeze, at others it sounds as though we could find ourselves in the middle of a lively festa at any moment. At one point we see a ramshackle hut engulfed by banana palms. It's a scene which compliments the Latino music, yet contrasts with the distinctly grandiose Portuguese architecture of nearby manor houses. For kilometres the source of the music is as elusive as the end of a rainbow. We finally track it down. It emanates from a church directly opposite our final base, Paço de Calheiros. As we pass a mini Christ the Redeemer welcoming us with outstretched arms, the reason for the normally sedate Minho countryside having a soundtrack is revealed. The whole village is taking part in a colourful procession, carrying ornate religious figures whose solemnness is brightened by floral displays at their feet.
These vindima celebrations are an unexpected and remarkable end to our memorable Minho journey.
Manor Houses of the Minho
With its sublime natural beauty, rich history and pretty towns and villages, the Minho has plenty to celebrate. Whatever time you choose to travel, you'll find relaxed walking, generous hospitality and exquisite manor house accommodation in the verdant Lima Valley.
More about our self-guided walking holidays in Portugal >
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