Explanation of Port Wine Tasting & Tours
In Vila Nova de Gaia, a suburb of Porto, the port lodges and their distinctive names high up on the terracotta roofs give Porto city its atmospheric character. The lodges are where the barrels of port were brought from all over the Douro region on the barcos rabelos - the traditional boats moored at the riverside - and stored ready for shipping across the world. Some of the port wine lodges are over 300 years old. Today nearly every company offer a tour of their cellars while imparting information on the production of port, the different types, vintages and history of port and the companies that sell it. What better way to gain an explanation of port wine!
Apparently port came about when somewhat inferior wine had brandy added to it to make it more palatable. These days it's a much more serious business. The grapes for making port are grown in a demarcated area 40,000 hectares in size along both banks of the River Douro and its tributaries. Grapes are harvested in September to October and then crushed. The juice ferments for a few days and is then stopped with the addition of aguardente - a Portuguese brandy-type spirit - at a time that later dictates the wine's sweetness. The wine then stands in casks in a cellar of the estate until the following March. It is then shipped downstream to the shippers' lodges at Gaia where it matures. The Portuguese often chill their port (probably something to do with the warm climate) and good accompaniments are some of the lovely Portuguese cheeses or chocolate for a very decadent experience.
Tours run on weekdays and Saturdays, but not Sundays. These are all pretty well organised some to military style precision! It can often be cheaper to buy the top quality ports from here, but some of the cheaper ones can be found cheaper in town.
One more place you may want to visit to find out about the history of port wine trade and its impact on the city is the Port Wine Museum (Museu do Vinho do Porto). It's free entry and is found in a former warehouse on Rua de Monchique west of Porto's Ribeira district. Rua de Monchique 45-52, tel: 351 22 2076300. Email: email@example.com. Open Tuesdays to Saturdays 10am-12.30pm and 2-5.30pm, Sundays 2-5.30pm. Closed on Mondays and holidays.
The Port Wine Route - Rota do Vinho do Porto
The Port Wine Route has been identified through the Douro region as a tourist trail that takes you through the Douro countryside where you can stop off points at quintas to find out about the various stages in the production of port wine. Needless to say there are many quintas offering wine tasting tours along the route.
The Port Wine Route Members' Association produce a helpful website that can help you plan a journey with maps indicating where the quintas are throughout the Douro region, they can even help you organise tours.
Wine Tasting Emporiums
The Port and Douro Wines Institute run three Solar do Vinho do Porto in Lisbon, Porto and Peso da Regua. These are like bars where a selection of wines are available for tasting alongside information, exhibitions and artistic events about port and the Douro area.
Solar do Vinho do Porto on Rua de Entre-Quintas near the Crystal Palace in Porto is a good stopping off point where you can taste a selection of port wines with views out over the River Douro. This, like the ones in Regua and Lisbon, are run by the Port and Douro Wines Institute and offer tutored tastings and a selection of books and information on Douro port wine. Open: Mon-Thurs: 2pm to 8pm; Friday and Saturday: 2pm to 12pm. Closed Sundays and holidays.
A good stopping off point in Peso da Regua is the Solar do Vinho do Porto housed in a converted warehouse on Rua da Ferreirinha. Open Mon-Sat 11am-7pm. Tel: 351 254 320 960. Next door at the Casa do Douro, the headquarters of the port growers organisation, is a series of stained-glass windows illustrating the history and production of Port wine.
The Lisbon Solar do Vinho do Porto is on Rua de Sao Pedro de Alcantara, 45, 1250-237 Lisboa - Portugal. Tel: 351 213475707/8. Fax: 351 213478392. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open Tues-Sat 11 am-midnight. Closed Sundays and holidays.