One of Portugal’s best known exports is port wine. The wine is made from grapes produced exclusively in Portugal’s Douro Valley region, in the North. It is a rich dessert wine that comes in several varieties. On a port wine tasting, you might expect to try both tawny and ruby ports.
In the past, a special kind of flat bottomed boat called barcos rabelos carried the wine barrels down the Douro river and to the shipping-port city of Porto. From there, it was exported all over the world. Today, the addition of hydroelectric dams prevents the barcos rabelos from traveling down the river and into Porto. Tanker trucks now carry the wine from the vineyards into Porto.
For more port wine history, check out The Home of Port Wine.
When visiting Portugal, you definitely don’t want to miss a chance to try some of the delicious port wine, and to take in the stunning Douro River Valley. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite port wine tastings for you to check out on your next trip.
Across the Douro River from Porto sits the town of Vila Nova de Gaia. Here, you can find the iconic Graham’s 1890 Lodge. The wine cellar here is still fully functional, and currently houses an extensive selection of port wines. Wine tastings here are by reservation only, due to the increasing popularity of the location. However, it is well worth it to make this visit a part of your trip. The views of the Douro River and Porto are as rich as the wines, and you will love taking in the scenery and history during your port wine tasting.
Also in Vila Nova de Gaia, Taylor Fladgate offers a fascinating historical tour of their cellars. No reservation is required, and the self-guided audio tour starts and ends on your own schedule. At the end, you will get a chance to taste two of Taylor Fladgate’s delicious ports. Unlike many other wineries, Taylor Fladgate also allows children on their tour. They can have grape juice and a snack, instead of wine.
Along the Porto side of the Douro River, you can’t miss the imposing figure of the Sandeman “Don.” He stands on a sign above the building, in his dark cloak and hat. The “Don,” and Sandeman, are famous for being one of the first wineries to actively advertise their brand. At their cellars, you can view photographs and antiques, while reading about the history of Sandeman. This winery is great for anyone interested in the business aspects, and in early advertising practices. You’ll also want to learn more about the mysterious “Don” and where he comes from.
Moving out of the city center and further into the Douro Valley region, you’ll find Quinta das Carvalhas. This spectacular vineyard has one of the most amazing views in the entire region. The vineyard itself covers an entire hillside, and the winery at the top shows off the beautiful green hills and blue river. In Portugal, a Quinta is a wine producing estate, and Quinta das Carvalhas is the largest in the Douro region. For stunning sights and delicious wines, you most definitely will not want to miss this stop.
Another of the Douro Valley’s wine estates, Quinta de la Rosa is a spectacular family owned vineyard. They are unique for creating, bottling, and packaging their wines all in one place. Many other vineyards send their wines to Porto for storage and bottling. However, at Quinta de la Rosa, you can see every step of the wine making process. Stop in for an excellent lesson in the process of making port, and finish out the tour with a port wine tasting!
A short distance from the town of Pinhao, along the Douro River, you can find one of the oldest wine companies in Portugal. Quinta da Roeda is well known for their vintage wines and authentic experience. During the harvest season, you can even reserve a time to test your skills at treading the grapes in one of the winery’s lagares. These are granite tanks in which the grapes are crushed to produce the juice that becomes port wine.
Book a day tour of some of our favorite wineries today!
Wherever you go and whatever you choose to do, you will love visiting the spectacular Douro River region of Portugal. The wines are delicious, and you’ll definitely want to buy a bottle to take home!