Last weekend I was at Quinta do Noval for the very first Great Douro Vineyard Run. This event was organized by the three Port producing companies: Taylor Fladgate; Symington group; and Quinta do Noval. This was a rather strenuous circuit that started and finished in Pinhão, and went through seven great quintas belonging to the three groups: Quinta do Junco; Quinta da Cavadinha; Quinta da Terra Feita; Quinta do Cruzeiro; Quinta do Noval; Quinta do Bomfim; Quinta da Roêda. After a slightly predictably late start, we started with an agonizing ascent to Junco, of at least 500 metres. The core of the Noval team was Dr Ashton Vice, world renowned chiropractor and passionate Port lover; Axel Probst, ex Luftwaffe Pilot, Port expert and author; and myself. Here we are, pictured running up the driveway to Noval, which was at the 13 km mark.
We were joined by Marine Castel PR manager from AXA Millésimes in Bordeaux, who very kindly ran at our pace for most of the run and then took off like an untired gazelle a few kilometres before the finish; and Christophe Macra, MW and owner of the Apogé caviste in Paris, who also ran untired and hare-like in front of us and behind, taking endless videos and photographs.
It was, as the various photos shown here will attest, a hugely enjoyable event. I find it reassuring to run with people much fitter than me, and this was the case on Sunday, and I was delighted when after a few kilometres it was decided by a referendum that we would stop running and just walk up anything that we collectively defined as a hill. There were several hills. This had the very positive effect that we all arrived eventually at the finish line alive, but also meant that our time was not of the fastest.
Each of the quintas had the usual expected water stations, with orange slices and bananas, but also small shots of Port wines of various styles from each of the houses. It would have been impolite not to have tried them all, so we did that. I have never read any self help guides on how to become a better runner that mention the beneficial effect of Port wine on long hill runs in the hot sun. But this is perhaps because I have never read any self help books on how to become a better runner. If they do not mention it, I cannot help feeling they are missing something.
At Quinta do Noval we had some live music, and Ana Carvalho had baked some chocolate cake for all the runners, which proved very popular.
Aida Pinto Ramos of Quinta do Noval served over one thousand servings in 3 cl glasses of chilled Noval Black, which was well received. As there were three hundred runners and seven hundred walkers, this either means that everyone had a glass, or that several came back for more, which I believe in fact was the case.
It was a test of will power to leave the terrace of Noval, knowing that we had nine more kilometres to go, but we did. The undulating terrain took us up and down through the quintas of Bomfim and Roeda, and then we were finally there at the finishing line in Pinhão.
Here is a picture of some of the Noval team members proudly displaying their medals.
It was a great day, and a wonderful first edition of an event that I hope will become a long term annual occurrence that should attract wine lovers from all over the world. The Marathon du Médoc, in which we actively participate at Pichon Baron, has already showed that the association can be made in a very positive way between an active sporting life and the regular moderate consumption of wine. I found the Douro half marathon an equally life affirming experience and strongly recommend it next year to anyone to whom the idea appeals.
To know more:
– check Quinta do Noval’s Facebook page to discover more photos of the run
– watch Miss Vicky Wine’s video about the ambiance at Quinta do Noval’s stop
– visit the website of Great Douro Vineyard Run and discover the first edition’s video