For some, Portugal may be a long trek just for wine tasting, but it is an experience of a life-time for wine lovers. Port wine, produced in the Douro Valley, is generally a sweet wine and served as a dessert wine. In Oporto, you can go on a Port Wine tour and taste authentic Ports at the Port Wine Houses located along the Douro River. The Douro River is a sight to see in itself with the “barcos rabelos” still lining the river side. These boats were originally used to transport the wines, but with the construction of several hydroelectric power dams in the 1650s and 1960s transportation shifted to tanker trucks. These flat-bottomed boats are now solely used for display and racing events.
Unlike any other wine, Ports are made from grapes that are grown in very few regions which offer ideal conditions for growth. The sweet, rich taste comes from a combination of the flavor of the grapes along with the way in which the wine is produced. Some Ports are matured in completely sealed glass bottles and others in wooden barrels. The latter allows for increased exposure to oxygen, which causes an oxidizing effect that is reflected in the taste of the wine. This process also attributes to the strong alcohol content and the distinctive taste.
While the wine itself is enough to make you want to travel to Portugal, the experience is even more enticing. In the Cálem Port Wine House (located on Vila Nova Gaia), tours are led by staff who truly have a passion for Port. Walking through the “caves” alongside the maturation barrels you can really sense the history of Port along with the sweet scent of aging wine. The guide directs you through the process of production and ends with Port wine tasting. The guides are very knowledgeable and happy to answer all questions from the novice wine-lover to the passionate wine-coinsure*. At the conclusion of the tour, you are supplied with two wines to sample and then given an opportunity to buy genuine Port wine to send home or readily enjoy. Prices have a wide range from about 20€ to 200€ per bottle depending on the year of harvest and the type of Port. Other similar Port wine houses include Ferreira, Offley, and Sanderman. You can book visits that take you through all three of these cellars at a low price of 9€.
Overall, this was an enlightening experience. I am new to the wine scene, but I am confident that this tour would be compelling even for a Port expert. If you find yourself in Portugal, I would highly recommend making a stop in Oporto to experience the culture behind Port wine first hand and, of course, to try the sweet flavors of genuine port wines.