Our first house guests in Porto provided Tom and me with an always-welcomed opportunity for tasting port with a view. We took our guests to visit one of the premier port wine lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river. They were new to the world of port, and in town for just a few days, so we wanted to make the most of our short time together. A walk through Gaia and a tour and tasting at Taylor’s proved to be an excellent way to celebrate the city and one of its signature flavors, all in one go. The first glimpse of our port-wine destination was from Clerigos Tower, in the heart of Porto.
Traveling to Gaia
Port is not aged in Porto, but across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. The famous port lodges are there because the north-facing caves are perfect for aging wine, and for several historical and economic reasons. The happy result for locals and visitors alike are multiple opportunities for tasting port wine, coupled with great city views at every turn, both toward Gaia and from Gaia.
A new cellar experience
Tom and I had been to Taylor’s lodge before, but this visit gave us a chance to visit the shipper’s new cellar. Not only has Taylor’s installed a completely new cellar since our last visit, daily group tours for the public have been replaced with audio tours in multiple languages. One of our guests set his tour to Portuguese for a bit of practice, while the rest of us took our walk through the lodge in English. Win-winIn all, the tour lasted about an hour, with several stops to watch short videos and some time to linger for as much introduction to the world of port-wine-making as we wanted. The audio is well done. In the cellar’s Douro Valley exhibit, we had a choice of reading displays, listening to the audio, or both. In a small museum area, and exhibit of farm implements, barrels and photographs told the story of the families behind the Taylor’s brand.
Tasting port wine at Taylor’s
The basic tasting at Taylor’s is an easy-going introduction to some of the most accessible flavors in the port wine universe: Taylor’s Chip Dry Port and Taylor’s Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port 2011. Taylor’s introduced Chip Dry way back in 1934, and it remains a delightful aperitif for a summer afternoon, chilled on its own or in a port tonic.
LBV provides some of the experience of drinking a vintage port, without the need for lengthy bottle aging. Taylor’s LBV was launched in 1970, and the 2011 vintage we enjoyed, with its vibrant ripe dark fruit, was a good introduction to LBVs.
Along with our glasses of port wine, we sampled cheeses from around Portugal–Serra da Estrella, the Azores and more. Our host Susana introduced the wines as she poured and provided background to the cheeses, which made our visit just that much more informative. After a relaxing time in Taylor’s garden, it was time for a walk down to the Douro and across the Dom Luis I bridge, and a ramble through Porto’s atmospheric Ribeira neighborhood.
If you go
It’s a snap to get from Porto to the lodges in Gaia. From São Bento Station or the cathedral, take the Metro or walk over the Dom Luis I Bridge’s upper level. From Ribeira, the bridge’s lower level is the straightest route to port wine tastings.
Taylor’s basic tour-with-tasting is an excellent introduction to port wine. Here are a few suggestions to make your visit even better:
- Consider the (somewhat pricey) teleférico from the viewpoint at Jardim do Morro. The ride is just five minutes, but the views are wonderful and the gondola lands you quayside in Gaia.
- At Taylor’s, order a snack to accompany your wine. We chose roasted almonds and a changing selection of Portuguese cheeses, but you could opt for other accompaniments, such as dark chocolate.
- You can save time by taking a taxi up to the lodge, but for an atmospheric touch, be sure to walk back down to the Douro through the narrow, cobbled streets of Vila Nova de Gaia.
- If you are already familiar with port wines, consider a premium port tasting, or ask for an in-depth, personalized tour. Both are available upon request.
- Taylor’s is part of the Fladgate partnership, which translates into a range of port-wine experiences, in Vila Nova de Gaia and in the Douro Valley. Might these added attractions be something you’d enjoy? Check out what blogger Nelson Carvalheiro has to say after his stay at The Yeatman and a private tasting at Taylor’s.