02 Aug Port Tasting In Porto
My Visit to Croft: Enjoying a Port Tasting in Porto
Picture this: a wet, wet morning in Porto. I’ve packed for warmish weather and the assault of rainwater has caught me unawares. As guests of Portgall.com, we’ve seen the splendour of some of the most famous churches of this beautiful city, but now the chill is starting to set in.
We bundle into the car, umbrellas dripping everywhere, the steam rising from our clothes, and breathe a communal sigh of relief: we are off to taste Port, something which we know is pretty much guaranteed to warm us from the inside out.
The previous day we had seen the Port Houses from a vantage point in Porto: today we head to Gaia on the opposite side of the River Douro. For all intents it looks like part of Porto, and most tourists would think it so, but our guide has told us that it’s another city. So, two cities in day!
Leaving the car, all we can smell are wet clothes and sopping hair. We scuttle through the car park of Croft, one of the smaller Port Houses, are met by our guide, and within minutes we are breathing in the heady atmosphere of the Port cellars. Unlike the cellars of the Champagne region, another one of my favourite wine areas, these cellars are ground level as apparently, the humidity here means there’s no need to dig down to keep the wine in the perfect environment. Our guide, Daniel, is passionate about Port. As he explains the history of this wine, and the methods that bring it from vine to table, we forget about the rain pelting down outside and relax into a world of history, viticulture and taste. He explains the different methods of making Tawny and Ruby Ports, pointing out the vats of different sizes, leading us past barrel after barrel of vanilla and spice old wood. I salivate in expectation of the blind tasting to come.
We are not disappointed. We begin with a Rose port which sounds almost blasphemous but would be ideal as a long summer drink, especially when we are given a second glass to try, chilled. Moving onto the Tawny and Ruby ports, it is interesting how most of the Portuguese at Portgall prefer the Tawny, but I opt for the Ruby, coerced, no doubt, by many years of enjoying a Port and Lemonade at Christmas, with my Mum. Our Portuguese hosts are horrified at the thought of watering down Port, a concept they have never come across before.
Overall, we pass a fascinating and slightly boozy hour or so tasting and retasting, recalibrating our views and impressions of Port and generally having a rather lovely time.
I’m not particularly into prescribing must-dos and creating checklists, but you would be silly to miss a Port tasting whilst in Porto, with the chance to see where all the magic happens…and then go on to taste it, in copious amounts I may add!
Disclaimer: for my Port tour I was the guest of Portgall.com