In the Douro River, running through the world-famous wine region to which it owes its name, there are no pirates, but there is a man in a boat wielding a saber. In his other hand he holds a bottle of sparkling wine. With a determined and precise blow, he cuts the neck, and the bubbling nectar fills the glasses. Shiver me timbers!

The unexpected act is the highlight of the absolutely private experience organized by Hélio – who is a sommelier, guide, helmsman and a friendly wine privateer. For six years now, his team has been sailing these waters between the city of Régua and the town of São João da Pesqueira, and sometimes even a little further up, dazzling travelers who want to get to know the oldest demarcated wine region on the planet. (OK, Hungarians and French challenge this statement, but a Portuguese prime minister made it a matter of law in 1756!)

Terroir ahoy!

Hélio has vast experience: he has worked in restaurants and hotels in the south of France, Spain, Lisbon, the Beiras and the Douro. When he launched his project, this one that makes us drink sparkling wine in a surprising way, the idea was, and is, simple and distinctive: to combine his wisdom as a sommelier with the incredible landscape of northern Portugal. On board with him, we learn everything: how the grapes arrived in the Douro more than 2000 years ago, the types of vineyards, the three local sub-regions and why they produce different wines, and the characteristics of each terroir. This is where Port wine and the Douro DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin) were born, the latter of which is on a constant rise in quality and is making serious inroads into international markets.

Well, what about that sparkling wine? The liquid comes from the Távora-Varosa region, a few kilometers south of the Douro and named after rivers that flow into it. The wineries there use the Champagne method to produce one of Portugal’s most renowned sparkling wines.

And the saber? As the day draws to a close and the sun sets over the hot Douro summer, Hélio surprises his guest with a wooden box. Inside is a sword. Enter the bottle, chilled to the perfect level. Hélio explains the purpose, suggesting: “OK, now open it!”. Now the guest is really intrigued. “Yes, please!”, insists Hélio, joking: “I’ve never done this before in my life and you apparently haven’t either, so go for it!”. The truth is, it’s not as hard as it looks. As long as the bottle is at the correct low temperature and the blade runs hard against the base of the neck, nothing fails. All with the appropriate hand protection, of course.

The excitement is great, and the taste even better. You’re toasting and celebrating the Douro. And you take home a souvenir: there was a string holding the neck and cork, which becomes a memento of the trip. Oh, and if the guest also wants to take along the amazing wines and sparkling wines tasted during the trip, no problem, Hélio will take care of everything. Just place the order and the wines will arrive home by post, without weighing down your luggage.

In the end, time to sing! “Yo-ho-ho, 100 bottles of Portuguese sparkling wine on the wall…”