21 November 2013

Em Porto: Port Tasting

We were lucky enough to spend several days based out of Porto. This beautiful city is, as the name would indicate, a port, and, also as the name would indicate, the hub of port wine.

This city sits on the end of the Duoro River, and served as the transportation point for the port made further north up the river. As such, the port houses have caves and/or tasting rooms, largely located directly across the river in the town of Vila Nova de Gaia.

We were lucky enough to be staying in Vila Nova de Gaia, so we could stare at the beautiful Porto from our windows. It was also fortuitous when it was time to go port tasting.

My friends decided to take a bike ride, but due to our very late start I decided to stay back and hit up some caves. I figured this would be similar to wine tasting here in the States, where you can sit at a bar and learn about the wines, and talk to the pourers or others standing nearby. So, I didn't think it would be a big deal to head off by myself.

I think this was stop 5...the barrell wouldn't dance with me
Unfortunately...port tasting at these houses is way different than what I was expecting. Perhaps it was the places I went, but my experience went something like this:

  1. Pay for tasting -- one place was 5Euro for 3 tastings, one was 20E for 6 (including a few wines). Others were about 2-3E per glass
  2. Go sit down...by myself somewhere on a chair, usually no where near where the drinks are poured
  3. Get drinks brought to me. All of them. At once. With very little explanation and no way to ask further questions.
  4. Drink everything provided. These were not small pours, either...they were what we would get here in SF if we paid for a nightcap. And remembering that port is much stronger than regular wine, and that there was no food other than some chocolates, well...things can get weird.
This is not to say it wasn't fun -- it was just much less social than I would have liked it to be. I had so many questions, and the pourers really don't come back around to answer any. With so much delicious port, the experience really makes the difference in what you'll purchase. In fact, the only bottle I bought was probably mediocre, but we had the most fun tasting at that particular cave (they were open late, and had a fado singer). You really can't go wrong with any of the ports you'll try, and you'll figure out what time you like -- white, tawny, ruby... and you'll figure out just how much you can drink before this happens: 

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