One of the most important elements of Porto’s cultural heritage is the port wine that you can taste on your visit there. The irony is that that esteemed dessert wine is actually made just across a bridge from Porto in another town. And then there’s the fact that the most famous port wine brand were established by Englishman and Scots.
A river runs through it
As with many cities bisected by rivers, Porto shares a certain drama, as the river Douro runs through it. Then, a bridge takes things over the top: The Ponte Luís Bridge, which was built in 1886 by a student of Gustave Eiffel, is a structure spanning the Douro in Porto’s most iconic district, Ribeira. One side of the bridge is Porto and the other Vila Nova de Gaia, a town where you can go on a port wine tasting tour. Maybe the sweet dessert wine should have been called “Gaia?”
Port wine – how sweet it is!
And speaking of the iconic nectar, it goes way back. While the Romans who arrived in the 2nd century were only around this area for about 500 years, one remarkable achievement they left behind was production of the beverage that would give the town its name: Port, a delectable dessert wine that is still produced today. Port is only produced from grapes in Portugal’s Douro region. The wine gets its unique flavor from a grape-derived additive called aguardente that shuts down fermentation of the grapes. It also results in residual sugar and a more powerful alcoholic punch. Some of the most famous port wine brands were established by Englishman and Scots, the result of an Anglo-Portuguese commercial treaty in the 17th century.
It’s all good
As for which winery you should try, there is not really a “best” – try any of them, as you can’t go wrong. It’s very easy to stroll from cellar to cellar and the tours, which typically include tastes of 1-2 port wines, are great value for money (i.e. not expensive). Some of the most famous port producers include Sandemann, Graham’s, Taylor’s and Churchill’s.
And if you get hungry after sipping too much sweet nectar, make sure you taste a francesinha, Porto’s legendary sandwich. Some call it the “devil’s Croque Monsieur,” as it’s quite heavy and is made from bread, wet-cured ham, cured pork sausage, steak or roast meat all covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce. A light meal, this ain’t! See if you can get a half order.
Okay, so now you’re watered and fed and are wondering what sights are to be seen in Porto? Read on!