Protected from Atlantic winds by the massif of Marão, the Baixo Corgo hydrographical basin is formed by rural narrow valleys and features a unique microclimate that, along with the nature of its schistous soil, enables the traditionally cultivated vines to produce high-quality grapes. Thanks to the land's unique features, the Marquis of Pombal established the Douro Demarcated Region in 1756, the first one to be defined and regulated as so in the whole world, in order to protect the inimitable qualities of its wines. In 1955, the "Grémio dos Vinicultores do Concelho de Vila Real" gave place to the Wine Cooperative of Vila Real, whose purpose is to protect the interests of its partners, ensuring the product's distribution and marketing. It's also worth mentioning that the quality of the wines from the Wine Cooperative of Vila Real has been internationally acclaimed and awarded with several medals, thus spreading the names of Vila Real and the Douro throughout the world. It should…
Every year, on February 3rd, there's a religious festival in honor of São Brás at the chapel of São Dinis in Vila Real, where those who make or fulfil a promise walk backwards around the cemetery "with their mouth shut so as to be safe from evil eye". This tradition is connected to the one of Santa Luzia when, on December 13th, the girls buy Pitos and offer them to the boys. On February 3rd the boys, in return, offer Ganchas to the girls, as if "a «gancho» (hook) to catch those girls willing to date".
Cavacórios are concave, bowl-shaped specialities that, along with the Bexigas, are part of the typical delicacies associated to the religious festival in honour of São Lázaro, the protector against skin diseases such as smallpox and others.
The Pitos de Santa Luzia emerged in the Convent of Santa Clara. It was Maria Ermelinda Correia, later to become Sister lmaculada de Jesus, who moulded their shape and flavour. Made from pumpkin jam, the Pitos have the shape of a folded napkin, inspired in the linseed patches that Sister Maria Ermelinda would apply to those who suffered from eye diseases. These delicacies were consecrated to Santa Luzia, patron saint of such patients, who is still honoured in a religious festival on December 13th in the chapel of Vila Nova, in Folhadela.
The Cristas de Galo (rooster coxcomb) are a convent patisserie and are of an artisanal elaboration, typical of Vila Real, which format resembles a coxcomb of a rooster. The filling is a combination of egg and almond. After baked the patisserie is sprinkled with sugar. The lard pastry, also known as the patisserie of Vila Real, and more recently as cristas or cristas de galo, were a creation of the nuns of the convent of Nossa Senhora do Amparo of the Santa Clara Order, clearly one of the most representative convent patisserie of Vila Real.
The Covilhete is a type of minced pie named after the small black clay mould (from Bisalhães) in which it would be baked. Today, the delicacy's mould is no longer made of clay but its name has been preserved. The tradition of this speciality is very old and is linked to the religious festivals of Santo António, Senhor do Calvário and Senhora da Almodena, the only occasions where they would be sold. The popularity of the Covilhetes within the gastronomy of Vila Real has been growing since the 19th century, as there were people who would sell them through the streets in trays covered with linen. Nowadays, it's possible to buy Covilhetes at every confectionery in Vila Real as they are made on a daily basis.
Roll up pieces of beef tripe with ham and a bunch of parsley in the middle. Cook for a couple of hours so that they are tender and tasty. The intestine has to be very well washed, with boiling water and often rinsed several times in lemon to get rid of any unpleasant taste. The same has to be done to the cow's stomach. The stomach is then cut into little squares and to each square a finger thick piece of ham and a spring of parsley is added. Everything is wrapped up in a thin gut and then tied with a bow.
The PDO Maronesa veal is obtained from the Maronesa cattle breed, deriving from the delimited area by the Marão, Alvão and Padrela mountains. The veal has a white to ivory white fat, depending on whether it is calf or adult cattle. The muscle is of a pink to dark red colour also according to the age of the animal. The Maronesa breed is defined as being a mountain, primitive, natural and rustic breed. Its main physical features are its dark brown to black hair/fur and a tuft of hair of a lighter colour. These cattle are responsible for the simple and delicate aroma and extremely tasty and juicy meat of the PDO Maronesa.