• Spain 10 plans for towns and wineries that you have to do if you like wine
  • Experiences The platform you have to know to sneak into the workshops of the best artisans

A thunderous silence. With total stealth, the boat leaves the jetty to glide through the international waters of the Douro with the unique soundtrack of the birds. In a few seconds, the traveler enters one of the most rugged and spectacular spaces of the Peninsula: the vertical canyons that guard the contour of this river that separates us and at the same time unites us to Portugal, west of Zamora and Salamanca. The first sign that we are facing an ecological treasure are those almost phosphorite lichens that cover the rock walls, bioindicators of air quality. Others are the otter pool, black stork nests, the flight of majestic griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures and Bonelli's eagles. They know no borders.

The environmental cruise of the International Biological Station, dedicated to the conservation of the aquatic ecosystem, is one of the ecotourism jewels of the Arribes del Duero Natural Park. It is also part of the Arribes Wine Route, the itinerary that leads us through the best and most unique of the territory, in addition, of course, to present its wineries, where the heart of many of its villages beats.

The EBI ship between cannons.

Between gorges, gorges and gorges we are facing a peaceful and bucolic rural universe where flocks of churras sheep graze on granite fences so perfect that they seem to lie. Raised by hand, they are one of the hallmarks of the region of Sayago: here the stone emerges everywhere.

That is why Formariz, a village with barely a hundred neighbors, does not dishevel, no matter how much the wind increases. Its streets are made of huge granite boats. Even the cables are buried (internet has not yet arrived...). In one of these beautiful stone houses we discover the winery El Hato y el Garabato, one of the wine projects that best reflect the growing interest aroused by the D.O. Arribes: "These are Spanish vineyards with a Portuguese soul," explain Liliana Fernández and José Manuel Beneitez, in charge of the winery. "Here you can try something that doesn't exist anywhere else."

The winemakers José Manuel Beneitez and Liliana Fernández.

On the way to his vineyards, the talk takes several directions. There is talk of winemaking, native Arribeña grapes, juan garcía and bruñal, and new varietals, such as the cross-placed grapes, which they use. There is also talk of family and history. "In this area everyone has been poor until yesterday. Each vineyard has its own personality: that of the winegrower, who in this case was my great-grandfather," says Beneitez.

Fermoselle and its thousand wineries

Between vineyards and centenary olive trees we arrive at Fermoselle, which assumes the position of capital of the Arribes. Although it has a nickname that we like even more, 'the town of a thousand wineries'. It is no exaggeration, according to the local guide, Olvido, who knows every inch of this municipality with border character that looks out from the top of a hill the sickle of the Duero. The fantastic thing is that those thousand cellars are underground. Fermoselle is a Gruyère cheese. The labyrinthine cellars are carved into the rock and reinforced with semicircular arches, without mortar. "Some date back to the Middle Ages," says Olvido. "A lot of them have disappeared but there could be about 1,200 left." Of these, fifty are conditioned for the visit and some in full operation.

The cave of Bodegas Pastrana.

This is the case of Bodegas Pastrana. The explosion of the underground cellars of Fermoselle occurred in the sixteenth century. This is from 1760 and preserves all the original materials... Although in reality many of the ashlars come from the old castle, the wall and some houses inhabited by Jews by the Hebrew marks they present. Glass in hand, Juan guides the visit through this cave where he breeds. With a production of about 15,000 bottles a year, Pastrana is one of the greatest. "In Arribes everything is small wineries, but this D.O. is fashionable. You just have to see it. Our wines are becoming known."

One of the last to arrive was Bodega Frontio. Denmark's Thyge Jensen, known to his neighbors as Chus, quit his job as an economist in Copenhagen to pursue his dream of making organic wines in a clawed terroir. He found it in Arribes in 2016, still not speaking a word of Spanish. Today he is the president of the D. O.

Zamorano cheeses

Artisanal cheese factory La Faya.

Where there is good wine you can not miss the good cheese. It's the excuse for our next stop. Among churras sheep, about 1,200 to be exact, walks every day the owner of the artisanal cheese factory La Faya, in Fariza. Ángeles Santos and his family milk their own flock every morning and make organic cheeses and D. O. Zamorano, "the one people look for the most when they get here. Zamora has a lot of sheep cheese culture," explains Ángeles.

Fornillos de Fermoselle is another star of this wild place. Here are the first rural houses in the province: the Casas de los Arribes. Think stone, stove and comfort. In flowers, dogs, Zamorano donkeys and black chickens, all autochthonous. Just like the aroma given off by the neighboring Mermeladería Oh Sauco, where Teresa Cotorruelo, a warm and passionate artisan, makes chutneys jams and jams with seasonal fruits and vegetables. His shop and workshop is pure temptation. There are 30 neighbors in the town, but Teresa says that "every day there are more shops and small businesses with heart" on this route. It is obvious.

The House of the Arribes in Fornillos.

For the next objective we leave for Ahigal de los Aceiteros. The stepped terraces that overlook the river appear again along the way. It seems like a miracle that olive trees and vines thrive. And may man be able to collect them. How? Loli Sánchez explains it to him in Aceiteros del Águeda, an oil mill that works in organic and with a variety of unique Arribeña olive called thrush. Worth the visit.

Arribes still reserves some surprises, such as the fortified town of San Felices de los Gallegos. Strolling is obligatory, as is climbing the keep. But do not miss El Lagar del Mudo, an eighteenth-century mill rebuilt exquisitely by its owners as in the past and converted into an oil museum full of curiosities.


ARRIVE. The AVE arrives in Zamora and from here in an hour by car we reach the Arribes del Duero Natural Park.

SLEEP. Posada Doña Urraca (www.posadadonaurraca.es). Rustic hotel with restaurant and family service in Fermoselle. The House of the Arribes (lacasadelosarribes.es). Four restored stone cottages located in the village of Fornillos de Fermoselle. With salt pool and Zamorano donkeys and Castilian black hens in the garden.

EAT. Restaurant Spain (Fermoselle). The cod at the tranca prepared by chef Mar Marcos is a must. Restaurant Santa Cruz (Masueco). Traditional riverside cuisine. You have to try the roasted ovens.

SAIL. Environmental Cruise Arribes Europarques. Tickets: www.europarques.com/es

MORE INFO. On the website of the Arribes Wine Route: rutadelvinoarribes.com and in experienciasrutadelvinoarribes.com to book experiences such as visiting the cheese factories, wineries, and much more with the travel agency Global Spain, specialized in this territory.

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