We passed through some aldeias (villages) high above the north bank of the river and then we pulled over seemingly in the middle of nowhere. As I scrambled out of the car, this is what I saw – a shallow, broad trough carved out of solid granite.
My friend, a wine maker and viticulturist himself, pointed out the details that explain exactly what this was – an ancient lagar where grapes were pressed. The “mail slot” looking hole in the rock in the top photo and the two slots on the opposite side of the lagar visible in the second photo would have held the uprights of a press, which would have crushed grapes piled in the stone trough, or lagar.
In the third photo if you look carefully you can see a canal cut across the lagar leading to a notch in the lip of the rock at the top right, where the grape must would have run out of the press.
There is no knowing how old this is. The Douro, particularly the area around Foz Coa has been settled for time out of mind, and legend has it Bacchus himself planted the first grapes in the Douro: he stopped here in his travels and asked for something to drink, and whilst he was grateful for the cold water he was given, felt the locals could do rather better, and gave the region the grape vines that have thrived here ever since. Perhaps he returned to this place to show them what to do with their first harvest.