Taking a port wine tour is a must when in Porto.
Porto has more than 50 port wine factories and more than 30 of them give tours around their premises.
Some of them are free and some of them cost a couple of euros and they always include a tasting of 2-3 different types of port wine.
Generally speaking it´s better not to visit the companies right on the river bank as they are often a little less generous with the wine.
Taylors who are located up a steep hill do a good tour for instance.
Porto is known as the capital of the port wine industry, and a visit to one of the wine lodges is a good way to learn more about the wine. I had a guided tour at the Porto Cálem, and was led through a small museum and the old cellars which was packed with vats and casks. The wine regions, the grapes, the process of producing port wine, and the different port wines - from the cheaper Ruby and Tawny ports to the expensive Vintage ports... I was not an expert after the tour, but it gave me some general knowledge about port wine....
The 30 minutes tour ended with the tasting of a red and a white port wine...
Porto is, of course, famous for its Port. Its success lies in it becoming a favourite tipple of the English elite during the heyday of the British Empire. The English moved in on Porto in large numbers, and their wealth helped to redefine the city's architecture, leaving a web of Neo-Classical buildings about the city that wouldn't look out of place in central London. The wealth was largely generated by the trade in Port wine, much of the best of which was dominated by the English.
The English port producers have left their legacy in the lodges on the far side of the Douro. Here their very English names, like Croft and Offley, are emblazoned across the roofs of the lodges and look quite out of place among the very latin style of the rest of the city. The English names dominate the port lodge skyline because of their location higher up the riverbank, safe from the annual floods, whereas the local producers were forced to take their chances further down.
A cozy atmosphere where you can set back and relax--and of course taste the varity of Port wines. First take the guided tour through the wine lodge; various tours throughout the day with a costumed guides. Tours through the caves are offered in different languages throughout the day. Toward the end of the tour a short movie is played on how the grapes are grown,harves and transported to the caves. Of course after the tour you do not want to miss the Port tasting....you may start with a Ruby Porto which has been aged in larg oak vats...then on to a Tawny Port - 40,30 or 20 years old which ranges from dry to sweet..then how about a White Port...Yes that is right White Port which I found to be my favorite. it may range from a very dry to sweet...and let not forget the Vintage and Vau Vintage Portos--wines of a single exceptional year.i
Sandeman Port is a great place to go, but if it is at all busy you really need to reserve in advance (something we found out the hardway). Even so, we still enjoyed our time, as there are many interesting things to visit even without doing a formal tasting.
The port wine is excellent, but better than that is a visit to the Ramos Pinto tasting facility at Gaia, across the river from Porto. A long history of recognizable posters are on the wall as well as displays that allow you to pose in a Ramos poster.
Well, I couldn't visit Porto and not visit the Port caves. The problem was, Which one?
Sitting on the opposite banks of the River Douro, in Ribeira, I could see there were at least 17 advertising boards visible, above the individual businesses. (I was later informed that there are about 35- some of the smaller companies being further along the river, and not so identifiable- many of these aren't members of the prestigious Institute of Port)
Well the decision was made for me; Included in the 6 bridges boat trip that I'd booked, was the chance to visit 2 companies- Croft and Calem
After our boat trip, we set off to find the Croft business. All the main cellars are signposted, from the end of each street, leading off the main street.
We were met at the doorway, by 2 smartly dressed men, who showed us into a room with tables and chairs made from barrels, and surrounded by memorabilia, photographs, and old pieces of equipment.
We were given a sample of white port to enjoy before the guided tour. On the table was a price list for the various types of Port, as well as momentoes such as glasses, umbrellas, playing cards etc.
I quite enjoyed the tour, our guide was quite informative and entertaining, we saw the different processes involved in the aging of port. I particularly enjoyed the demonstration of how to open a bottle of vintage port. Traditionally this was done with a sword, but our guide used a pair of special pincers. We also were told about the different types of port- it was quite interesting to hear that some ports that had been stored away for many years, as an investment, might only procur a thimbleful of port due to sedimentation/evaporation-
to be continued.....
One of the BEST things to do in Porto is visit port wine caves. These are all located across the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia. From the Ribeira you can walk across the Ponte Dom Luis I (bridge). Walk along the cais (wharf/riverfront) and you will run across any number of port wine caves. There are also some up the hill from the cais.
Two of my favorites are Sandeman (their guides are dressed up like the Sandeman logo!) and Ramos Pinto. The latter is quite the tour- you see the restored offices of the founder and all kinds of historical artefacts. But any one of the houses has good tours (I have visited: Calem, Taylor, Ramos Pinto, Sandeman, Warre...). And tastings afterward, usually of a ruby, a tawny, and a white port. And of course you can buy any of their ports right on site! One of my favorite port houses is Quinta do Noval, which does not have tours. However, they have nice tastings and their staff is quite knowledgeable and ready to help you. It's lots of fun to learn more about port- I knew very little when I first went to Porto and now I know almost as much as the best of them!
The rabelos of the port house- the boats that used to be used to transport the port wine from the Douro Valley to Porto- only sail one day a year, just after the festival of Sao Joao (Saint John) on June 21. Fortunately I've been there twice to see this- it's a treat!
If you are going to Porto, a visit to a wine cellar is a must. They are located on the other side of the Douro river, oposite the city centre.
We went to Calem (which is one of the top 10 oporto wine cellar in terms of quality). Calem is right on the riverside, you pay 2€ for a 20 min visit. The explanation is not very detailed but you get a very good tasting at the end. You can taste 3 different ports, tawny -5 and 10 years- and white, and they even gave us for free a 1989 port which was amazing!
We also went to Grahams, wich is up the hill but there is a free bus from the bridge -on the Villa Nova de Gaia side- that takes you for free to the Cellar. The place is nicer than Calem, they really have a lot of barrels stored, the visit is longer but you don;t learn much more about the wine making -a lot of photos-. The tour is free and includes a tasting of 3 types of porto -red, tawny and white- and there's an option for trying more sophisticated portos -like vintage- paying something from 5 to 30€.
I've heard is cheaper to buy the wine in a store than in cellar. We bought it at the airport freeshop because of the security measures. Not a good deal, it was more expensive than in the cellar and the options are limited. If you want a vintage or a specific port is better to buy it at the cellar.
If you are in Porto, you should not miss to visit one of the many wine companies. Most of them offer a white and red wine for tasting. Also I recommend a guided tour, not to get back home... ;) ,but which will teach you about the history and the way Port is produced.
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