Port took its name from this city and may be the most famous type of Porto wine to the foreigner’s ear. Port wine itself is actually made in the Douro valley almost 80 miles from the city. (The “Douro”, or Duero in Spain’s is the same river than gives its name to Spain’s remarkable tipple Ribeira del Duero).
The wines are transported from the vineyards upriver and aged in the famous Port wine cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia (that’s the part of Porto across the river). Port wine is sweet and has high alcohol content, due to the adding of brandy to stop the fermentation process during its ageing. This also stopped the wine going bad and made it easy to transport as far as the thirsty trading ports of Britain!
Basically all port wines are made in this way. The different grapes and ageing techniques account for all the different varieties: tawny, ruby and white etc. Exporting Port wine to the UK really took off in the 18th century when the Brits were at war with France but needed to maintain a steady flow inwards of booze to keep happy! So they cut the import duties on Porto wine and it was suddenly open season!
The increasing involvement of British trading families in the Porto wine business is what accounts for the number of English sounding names you’ll see painted on the roofs of the wine warehouses all over the city.
One thing that you must do while in Porto is to visit one of these warehouses or wine cellars and get not only the knowledge, but the special buzz of this fantastic fortified wine.
Looking for a tapas tour to taste wine and food from this remarkable city ?