Oporto Wine, Porto
Across the Douro river, Vila Nova de Gaia is home to the region's port wine caves. There are more than a number of caves, each a bit different than the others. Some may charge admission, where others do not. A visit to a cave generally consists of a few samples, a tour of the caves with a little history lesson, and more wine and snacks to consume until you are feeling woozy. Often times, tour guides are trained in multiple languages, catering to your native tongue. I encountered a little dilemma when touring the caves...I was traveling with an Italian friend who spoke Portuguese but hardly any English. I spoke Portuguese but not any Italian. When we arrived in the cave, the entire group of visitors embarking on the tour were Italians (who clearly didn't speak Portuguese). Needless to say, I was outnumbered and had to undergo the tour in Italian. Fun for me!!
Once in the port wine cellars, embark on a tour (preferably in a language you can understand), There's usually an overview on port wine making, a history of production in the Douro Valley, and more stuff to excite or bore you. The caves are cold, since they are kept at a cool temperature beneficial to fermentation. If you are easily chilled like me, bring some warm clothing!
We went to three different port wine caves. Yep, call us drunk if you want, because we certainly were after all the free samples. Port wine, for those of you who are not familiar, is much stronger than your conventional wine. A few sips of port will leave you feeling woozy.
Aside from being unable to understand my tour given in Italian, I highly recommend Graham's. It is further away than all the other caves, but they provide free tours and samples. There is a free shuttle from the waterfront in Gaia, but we walked here. It didn't take more than 20 minutes. I would recommend the shuttle however because the street leading to Graham's is very steep and winds treacherously. Every time a car passes, I was afraid that it would hit be because you can't see beyond the curves.
You'll be given samples of tawny, white, and red varieties of port wine. I prefer the less popular white because it is a dry wine, unlike the super-sweet reds and tawnies.
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.....
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.
Vila Nova de Gaia is THE place where the famous Port wine is made.
Enter any of the several cellars to learn more about the process for creating port wine and experience the wine tasting after the visit. Visits can be free .. or not. I went to Croft and was welcome with a free glass of port wine. Then i had a free visit of the cellar and finally another free glass of wine !
Note that standard port wine bottles are less expensive in the supermaket than in the cellars ! If you buy wine in the cellar, make sure it is a very special bottle such as a vintage wine or a bottle of your year of birth (if you're a collector as it could be very expensive)
These famous boats "barcos rabelos" line the Douro, mainly on the side of Vila Nova de Gaia. These were the original boats used to transport casks of port wine down the river. Now, they are merely used for decoration and advertisement to draw visitors to the port wine caves in Vila Nova de Gaia.
There are several docks over in Vila Nova de Gaia in which you can get an upclose glance of the "barcos rabelos" - crawl along the docks to get a great glimpse!
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.
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.
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
I think it's a pretty fair deal: You pay 2 euros for the visit; they reward you with a couple of glasses of fine Port wine. Repeat this process until you're tipsy enough ;-) The only con is that you’ll have to suffer an incredibly boring explanation about the boring history of the wine brand you're visiting. But again, my personal opinion is that the deal is fair :-p
The city of Porto (Oporto) is the World Capital for Port Wine.
Therefore, any visitor should not miss the opportunity to enjoy a glass of a fine Port.
Suggestion: visit the Port Wine Lodges located in Vila Nova de Gaia, right in the south bank of the Douro river. Vila Nova de Gaia is walking distance from downtown Porto (Oporto). To get there from Porto, any visitor just need to cross the Dom Luiz I bridge.
Pictured on this tip, the American journalist Roy Hersh of For The Love Of Port is happily holding a "baby", a VERY BIG Taylor Fladgate LBV bottle of Port Wine.
When visiting Porto, you absolutely have to go on a port wine tasting! I think in general most of them lodges offer a good service, but I can only speak from experience about the one we went to, Sandeman. They offered a very thorough modern tour and it was in English (I believe other languages are available) and a tasting at the end. There's also some seating outside and a cafe adjacent. You also can't beat the location on the river with a great view of Porto.
Oporto called Porto, is a sweet, fortified red wine of considerable renown from the Douro region of northern Portugal, named for the town of Oporto where it is aged and bottled.
The soil and grapes, and the skill of Oporto vintners in blending, produce wines of remarkable character, with types running through a series of flavours. Vintage port, the finest, is not blended; but harvests deemed worthy to produce it are rare. The full richness of the port taste is found in dark vintage and vintage character ports; these types are taken from the cask after two or three years and complete their aging in the bottle. Vintage character port is a blend of best wines, sometimes called crusted port because, as with vintage port, it forms a crust within the bottle. Ruby port is a blend of younger wines.
There is quite a selection of Port Lodges to visit including Calem, Taylors, Barros, Cockburns about 14 or 15 i think, we visited the Sandemans wine cellar, the visit last's about an hour and of course you get to sample the port wine, red and white, i'd never had white port before and it come's with quite a kick.