Archives for October 17, 2019

An Authentic Port Wine Tasting Experience – Porto, Portugal

An Authentic Port Wine Tasting Experience – Porto, Portugal

For a port wine enthusiast, like my husband Mark, our recent trip to Portugal was a dream come true. We spent two weeks in Portugal, with an emphasis on Porto, the home of his favorite wine…Port. Port is a rich blend of Douro Valley grapes, fortified with Brandy, made exclusively in northern Portugal. Porto is a vibrant city which is quickly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Porto lies on the northern banks of the Douro River, and on the southern banks is Vila Nova de Gaia, where the Port Lodges reside. It is here where all of the Port is stored in barrels and matured in cellars.

My husband was seeking a truly unique Port wine tasting experience, so instead of going to all of the cellars, we arranged in advance for a private tour of one of the smaller, exclusive lodges, Vasconcellos. Our tour guide, Jorgito, shared with us that they make only 40,000 bottles a year. The large houses that distribute worldwide might make as many as 1 million bottles a month. We learned that the Port maturing in the French Oak barrels is a blend of wines. For example, a 40 year old Port is really a minimum of 40 years old and likely contains some wine that was 60 or 70 years old.

Jorgito at Vasconcellos Port House – Portugal

We tasted a variety of Port:
White – while my husband typically finds white Port harsh, like a Scotch or Bourbon, this was incredibly smooth and sweet.
Vintage – this is produced in what is named a “Vintage” year, an official designation by a government authority when certain growing conditions are met. It is made and bottled that year and is not a blend. Once opened, a Vintage should be consumed within three days. This was probably my favorite, as I am not a wine enthusiast or a Port aficionado, but I found it to be very enjoyable (especially with dark chocolate).
10 year old Tawny – this was like drinking a high quality 20 year old Port in the U.S.
20 year old Tawny – super complex flavor profile with walnuts, raisins and other fruity flavors. It had a beginning, middle and end.
30 year old Tawny – this was the best Port my husband ever tasted…until he was offered the 40 year old.
40 year old Tawny – My husband was the only one who was passionate enough to taste this Port. (Jorgito knew he was the only one who would truly appreciate this experience as it was meant to be experienced). There were no words used to describe the taste, rather, his face beamed with the biggest grin I have ever seen! Perhaps he died and went to Port heaven for a moment. He was able to describe it later as beautifully light in color, fruity essence, with complex nut flavors and an amazing almost syrupy/caramel taste. Velvety smooth.

Port Wine Tasting

The wine tasting at Vasconcellos Port house was a once in a lifetime experience, that we hope to experience again in our lifetime. Vasconcellos Port is not sold outside of this Port house, in Gaia. We were able to purchase it and have it shipped to us. It arrived this week:
• Two bottles of Vintage Port 2012 – to be consumed for special occasions, like our 30 year wedding anniversary, or the birth of our first grandchild, maybe.
• One bottle of 10 year old Port – to be shared with Port loving friends, only.
• One bottle of 20 year old Port – to be shared with one friend who truly appreciates Port wine.
• Two bottles of 40 year old Port – referred to by Jorgito as “two bottles of Selfish” – these will only be consumed by Mark. Period.

Port Wine Selfish
“Selfish Port” – 40 year old Tawny

Other Tastes of Portugal
Portugal is a beautiful country, their people are super friendly, the weather in September was perfect, and nearly everyone spoke English with us. There were so many incredibly unique things we saw there. In addition to the Port cellars, these are most memorable:
Portuguese Pavement – The sidewalks and streets are truly a work of art made of black and white pavers. These are hand-carved from basalt and limestone blocks, then individually placed by hand by an artisan.
Portuguese Ceramic Tile – These ceramic tiles decorate literally everything in Portugal. They can be found on the sides of ordinary houses, buildings, inside train stations, the outer walls of churches and palaces, shops, etc. Sometimes they make a mosaic pattern, sometimes they build a huge mural.
Portuguese Cork Products – We learned that Portugal is the biggest cork producer in the world. Cork Oak trees must be 25 years old before cork can be harvested. It is sustainable as only the outer cork layer is stripped from the living tree every nine years. These Cork Oaks can live to be 200 years old. Cork is used to make purses, belts, shoes, wallets, etc. Think leather products, and you will find them in cork.
Portuguese Fado – Fado music is considered the “urban blues” of Portugal. It usually consists of a mournful sounding solo singer accompanied by a classical Portuguese guitar. This is a must experience. I would recommend a small, intimate family-owned Fado House like we experienced in Funcha, Madeira, called Travessa dos Torres. The singing was filled with passion and sorrow. The food was delicious.

Portugal Flavors

What a wonderful experience we had in Portugal. I hope you have a chance to visit this place, too.