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Porto’s most famous export product is port. The city overflows with it. The right bank of the Douro river is teeming with wine bars. On the other shore, in Vila Nova de Gaia, the port houses have cellars full of expensive bottles, while further upstream lies the delightful landscape dotted with vineyards. Make the most of your port sampling with this 3-step approach – spitting is optional.
The region along the Douro river has been producing port since Roman times, for more than 2,000 years. The grapes for this fortified, slightly sweet wine grow in the Alto Douro, a landscape with beautiful wine terraces that have been designated a World Heritage site. In days of yore, the grapes were packed into wooden boats (barcos rabelos) and shipped to the city where they were processed into port. Today, the port houses welcome visitors with open arms, just like the many wine bars in Porto. Ready for a taste?
The renowned Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto has been guarding the quality of port since 1933. Visitors can take a guided tour of the lab packed with futuristic testing equipment and visit a tasting room that is full of port professors with a nose for fine wine. The institute’s wine shop stocks hundreds of types of port, either to sample or to take home. Through films, scale models and exhibits, the Port Museum provides an overview of the history of port production. That glass of port will taste even better if you know how it is made.
The epicentre of the port industry is not actually in Porto, but across the river Douro in the town of Vila Nova de Gaia. Here you will find the port houses of famous labels such as Cálem, Croft and Cockburn's, which produce and store the port. The Tourist Information Office hands out a useful map of all the port houses that are open to visitors. For a modest contribution, you can take a tour of cellars stacked with oak casks, followed by a tasting. We highly recommend visiting Graham’s Lodge, but please note that tours are by appointment only.
No wine lover will come to Porto without visiting the Alto Douro, the breathtaking river valley where the grapes are grown. One of the most beautiful train rides in the world winds from the monumental São Bento station in Porto to Pocinho on the Spanish border. Get comfortable for a 3.5-hour-long view of the meandering blue river wedged among green mountains covered in rolling wine terraces. Step inside the wine bar of the Port Institute in Régua, visit the vineyard Quinta do Bomfim in Pinhão, and spend the night in the port hotel Vintage House.