Drinking porto in Porto

Porto, Portugal

This city’s love affair with wine — and specifically, the namesake port — dates back to the 18th century. Grapes grown in the Douro Valley, an area blessed with just the right mix of rain, soil composition and sunlight, were cultivated and brought into Porto by boat, where they were processed and subsequently aged.

On the other side of the river, in Villa Nova de Gaia, about 60 lodges continue to make port this way today. This morning, with the sun shining again, we set out to do some tasting.

Our first stop was the smaller, independent Cálem, that wasn’t running another English-speaking tour for an hour, but had a Spanish speaking guide available immediately. Which meant it was time to brush off those Español skills.

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Port itself is made in about the same way as wine, with the key differences being length of fermentation as well as the other ingredients, like brandy, that are occasionally added. We got to check out the oak barrels, where porto had been aging for 10, 20, 30 years or longer.

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Then, to the matter at hand: tasting. For those who haven’t imbibed, port is a sweet dessert wine, best enjoyed in limited quantities, like, well, a glass. The older the port, the lighter the color and more refined the taste (apparently).

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With a few tastes under our belt, our next stop was Ramos-Pinto, another quiet spot where we had a chance to taste most of their line, including a delicious 20-year old reserve.

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Two tastings were really enough for us, so we made our way back along the shore, checking out the old boats used to transport grapes into the city — and now largely to haul camera-totting tourists around.

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With the weather approaching 32 degrees, we needed to escape the heat and our hotel recommended a popular beach just about 20 minutes away. Checking out all the Europeans sunning themselves there, it felt only appropriate to don my new Euro suit (courtesy of C&A).

It took a little while to get used to but I’m now quite sold on the benefits of the Euro suit! Needless to say, Charlotte got a kick out of it, too.

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