I love wine, but honestly don’t know much about Port. I generally shy away from very sweet wines, and that is how I have always thought of Port. The only time I ever had Port in my liquor cabinet at home was when a recipe called for it. But when in Porto…
I’m so glad we signed up for the four-hour port tasting tour with Porto Walkers in Porto Portugal. Our tour guide Alex was sensational. He really knew his stuff and I learned so very much. We visited three different Port houses. These houses are technically not in Porto, rather across the Douro river, in Gaia – they originally located there instead of in Porto because the taxes were lower!. It was fun walking with our group of about twenty from the Porto side, across the Luis the I bridge (built in 1881) to the popular port tasting riverfront boardwalk in Gaia.
Only wine grown in the Douro region and produced here can be called Port. Elsewhere it is known as fortified wine. The grapes are grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. (source Wikipedia)
Our first stop on our tour was the amazing and historic Ramos Pinto House. Located in a stunning riverside big yellow building, it’s clear on arrival you are seeing something special. Founded by Adriano Ramos Pinto in 1880, Casa Ramos Pinto rapidly became noted, at the time, for its innovative and enterprising strategy, including the first to bottle wine and the first to really market and brand their wine using some risqué advertising for the era.
At Ramos Pinto we enjoyed a full 50 minute tour of the original offices of Adriano Ramos Pinto, the cellar filled with hundreds of port-filled barrels, and a display that shows the incredibly unique shale wall system used to grow the grapes. After our tour we enjoyed a tasting of two of their Port Wines. We tasted a 7 year white which was very sweet (too sweet for me) and syrupy with notes of honey. We also tasted a 7 year Tawny that was deep, beautiful magenta, and also quite sweet.
Our next stop was Quinta Santa Eufemia. Here we got a quick lesson on Portuguese cork as well as barrels used for the wine aging process before tasting a deep red Ruby Port which we accompanied with chocolate. It was a perfect pairing. I really enjoyed this port.
Our final stop was Porto Cruz. By this time our group was getting to know each other and getting loud and friendly after three glasses of port. Pretty fun. We started with a Rose Port. This is fairly new on the market, conceived for a younger audience to help introduce them to Port. I liked this light, sweet wine. We took our Rose up to the roof top bar and enjoyed the music and the view while we waited as they prepared the tasting room for us.
We headed to the tasting room where we tasted three more Ports. Our guide Alex did an awesome job helping us taste and consider the “notes” of each glass. The white was full of fruit flavors like apple, pear and pineapple while the Tawny and Ruby had notes of caramel, maple, chocolate and spice. We learned about terms like vintage and late harvest. We tasted a White, Tawny, and Ruby in addition to our Rose (strawberry notes). I enjoyed all four of the Ports from Porto Cruz.
When we signed up for this tour I thought four hours seemed a really long time, but it went by so quickly because it was both interesting and fun. I highly recommend Porto Walkers and their Port Wine Tasting. Only 25 Euros and worth every penny. Ask for Alex – he was great.