In trying to organise something nice for us to do for our Wedding Anniversary I struck on the idea of actually going to Porto to see and learn about how it is produced. Unfortunately the only flights to Porto from the UK are from either Gatwick or Liverpool, neither of which are particularly convenient airports for us. No matter I booked us to fly out from Gatwick on Saturday 8th June.
I am calling the northern Portuguese city Porto, but for most of the last 300 years in English we have known it as Oporto. This has always caused me confusion but I can now clear that up. In Portuguese "o Porto" means "the Port" and a misinterpretation linguistically led to English speakers calling the city Oporto. You can actually use either name but I prefer Porto.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon and took a rather scary cab ride from the airport to our hotel the Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira, a lovely place just a minutes walk from the Douro River and our room, as requested by myself had fabulous views of the river and of the Port houses on the opposite side of the river in the district of Vila Nova de Gaia.
|The View from our hotel room across the Douro|
|Chocolate cup of port for a euro!|
Our first taste of port came in a rather touristy way. A lady selling chocolate cups filled with port for a euro on the street. Yes, it was tacky, the chocolate was average and the port very cheap but hey, it was fun!
We dined simply in a restaurant around the corner from the hotel and hoped for better things on the Sunday.
|Map of the Douro river region and it's proximity to Porto|
|The spectacular Douro Valley with Pinhao in the distance|
|Louise with the 3 taster wines |
at Quinta do Portal
From there it was back to the minibus and home to Porto. All in all the tour was frankly disappointing. Badly timed in that we did not have lunch until 2pm and I would have expected to visit at least two wineries but the scenery was spectacular and it did make us realise how hard it is to harvest the grapes on such steep terraces.
|Taylor's - There I can see it, just can't find it!|
|And we found it, eventually!|
|The ceiling of Taylor's sumptuous tasting room|
A tour of the cellars was 3 euros and included a tasting of 3 ports. Normally you would do the tasting after the tour but the next English tour wasn't for half an hour so we sat in the glorious surrounds sipping at our ports, a Chip Dry White Port, a Fine Ruby and a Ten Year Old Tawny.
|Left to Right - Chip Dry White, Ruby, 10 year old tawny|
White Port - Made from just white grapes and usually aged for a short period. Serve chilled as an aperitif or mixed in a cocktail, possibly with tonic water as the Portuguese do. The lowest end of the quality spectrum.
Rose Port - New kid on the block. Strictly speaking a ruby port that has had little contact with the skins, similar to a rose wine.
Ruby Port - Aged for a short period of two years, often in concrete or stainless steel vats although sometimes in large oak casks (Taylor's do this). Not intended for ageing and has a bright claret colouring. Good with cheese, especially blue veined cheeses.
Reserve - Fancy name for a ruby port that maybe of slightly better quality. Used to be sometimes called 'Vintage Character' until that was banned in 2002.
LBV - Late bottled vintage. Staple of every decent restaurant or hotel throughout Britain. Essentially an aged ruby port that has had 4 - 6 years ageing. There are two types, filtered and unfiltered, the filtered being ready to drink the unfiltered more like a vintage port that needs decanting. Filtered LBV's are more common in Britain and can be kept for a short time.
Tawny Ports - Port aged in smaller oak barrels. The barrels are not completely filled to allow some oxygen to oxidise the wine a little. This gives it a somewhat nutty flavour and also with age the port will tend to brown. A simple tawny will have been aged two years but there are also 10, 20, 30 and 40 year old tawnies with naturally increase in price the older they are. Great with desserts.
|Some of the names of the 32 port houses|
Single Quinta Vintage - In the slightly lesser years the port house may declare a single quinta vintage. That is a vintage from just one of it's estates. These are still sought after from the bigger houses.
|Douro River with the old Rabelo boats. |
Historically used for transporting the port down river.
|And guess what. The next day we did all again but around Cockburns!|
Enjoying what you're reading. Why not book me for a personal wine tasting with your friends. Ideal for a birthday, celebration, or alternative stag or hen party. See my website. www.gloryofwine.com.
In the meantime, cheers! Enjoy your wine.
Next time: Celebrities and their vineyards.
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