Port Wine Tasting In Porto
Before traveling to Porto we knew very little about the wine of the region or how to visit the Porto wine cellars. After our travels, we came away with a better knowledge of Porto’s most famous product, due in part, to taking a couple of wine tours. In this post, we share our tips on how to book the best Porto wine tours.
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What To Expect When Wine Tasting In Porto Portugal
When we explored Porto and the nearby Douro Valley, we had a private driver and guide. We experienced a lot of the same activities as many of the Porto wine tasting tours we recommend below. But, I understand that hiring a private driver is not possible for many travelers. Seeing the best of Porto should be accessible to travelers of every budget.
Visiting one or more Porto wine cellars is one of the best things to do in Porto Portugal. In this post, I talk about Port wine and Douro Valley wine and what it means to book a tasting. I also share what to take into consideration when looking for the best Porto tasting to fit your needs and your budget.
What You Will Learn In This Wine Tourism Blog Post:
- You will learn what is Port wine and how it differs from other wines. Porto wine is a fortified wine, which makes it different than other wines.
- You will learn what to take into consideration when looking for the best Port wine tours in Porto. Our recommendations include half-day and full-day wine tours.
- You will learn how to book a Porto food tour to make the most of the experience. A food tour is a great alternative to a Porto wine tour and generally includes a tasting of Port.
What Is Port Wine
One of the main reasons why we wanted to visit Porto was to learn about Port wine. We’ve been to probably a hundred or more wineries over the years. Yes, we’ve done our share of wine tastings. I’ve even written a book about a Catalan wine region. But, Port wine is a little different.
At its most basic, Port is a sweet, red, fortified wine, generally enjoyed as a dessert wine. It is fortified with the addition of a distilled spirit. It can have flavors of berry, caramel, cinnamon, and even chocolate. Although some Port wines are enjoyed rather young, some of them can be aged for a very long time, resulting in more complex flavors.
There are four main types of Port. A Ruby Red Port is deep red in color. A Tawny Port is lighter in color, almost caramel color. White Port is made with different grapes to produce a white-colored wine. These can include Esgana Cão and Malvasia Fina. More recently, some producers are making a rose port as well. The latter two are commonly found in Portugal in cocktails.
Porto Wine Pro Tip
Because most Port wine is red wine, it is generally served at slightly cooler than room temperature. Port wine can also be enjoyed chilled but is more flavorful when a little warmer. Because it is fortified, you can open a bottle of Port wine and it will still be drinkable three to four weeks later.
How Does Douro Valley Wine Differ From Port Wine
People talk about Port wine tours and Douro Valley wine tours. Some wine travelers don’t understand fully the difference. I want to explain the difference so that when you are booking your wine tasting tour, you know what to expect. The city is the gateway (or Port) to the Douro Valley. Tastings can occur in the city or in the valley.
The grapes are grown to produce Port wine grow in the Douro Valley, which is just outside of the Porto city centre. The Douro River runs through the center of Porto and out into the wine country. Traditionally, when the grapes were harvested, the wine would be transported into the city via boat.
In the city, they would be fortified and aged in one of the many caves and cellars that line the river’s edge, mostly in Vila Nova de Gaia. The Port wine tastings that occur in the city are at these caves and cellars. The tastings generally focus only on Port wine.
Douro Valley Wineries
The Douro Valley is well-known around the world for producing some top wines and some of the most famous wines in Portugal. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of the winemakers located along the river, outside of Porto, produce Douro Valley wine, which can be red or white. These wines are not fortified. This means they are not dessert wines. When doing a Douro Valley wine tasting it is possible to taste dessert wines, but the focus is not on Port wine. It’s on “normal” wine, for lack of a better term.
The Douro Valley is divided into three main areas, including Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo, and Douro Superior. The Douro River runs into Spain, where it becomes the Duero River, known for Ribera del Duero wines.
There are hundreds of grape varieties in the Douro. Some of the key grapes include Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, and Tinta Barroca. Most wines from the area are blends, which is common with many Portuguese wines. When people ask about “Porto wine country” they generally mean the grape-growing area of the Douro Valley.
Booking a Douro Valley Wine Tasting Or A Port Wine Tasting
What does this mean for a wine traveler? A few things. When booking a Porto tour, pay attention as to whether it is a Port wine tasting or a wine tasting. If you know you don’t like sweet wine or Port wine, then look for a Douro Valley wine tasting to be sure to taste wines you like. Even if you don’t know anything about Port wine, though, it’s still worth it to do a tasting. That’s how we learn about wine.
If you are short on time, then look for a Port tasting in Porto, in the city. If you have more time and are looking for a Porto day trip, then consider taking a Porto Douro Valley tour, which leaves the city and travels into the wine country. Booking a Douro Valley winery tour will not only give you the chance to sample incredible wines but also to see one of the most beautiful areas of Portugal.
What To Consider When Looking For The Best Port Tour In Porto
So far, we’ve discussed the difference between Port wine and Douro Valley wine and where these tastings normally take place. But, what else should you consider when determining which tour is the best for you?
The first thing is whether you want to book a tour in the first place or to organize something on your own. It is possible to book a tasting at one of the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. This is the easiest way to taste a few glasses of Port and possibly tour a cellar.
By booking a Porto tasting tour, though, you might be able to visit more than one cellar. You would also have the services of a local guide who can answer all sorts of questions. The guide will also be able to tell you more about the history of the city and the region as well. The tours might also include food tastings.
The second thing is normally how much time you have. If short on time, a half day tasting in the city is probably best. If you have more time, consider booking a full day tour into the Valley. Find The Best Porto Wine Tours Here
Recommended Wine Tours in Porto
We recommend using Viator Porto to book any of these Porto tasting tours. We like Viator for a few reasons. One, we’ve used them for tours around the world without any problems. Second, you will receive immediate confirmation of your booking. Last, Viator is a reputable company that is actually owned by TripAdvisor, so if there are any issues with your booking, there is a big company standing behind the booking. Check out more Porto Tour Recommendations on Viator
Book A Small-Group Tour Of Port Wine Cellars In Porto
This is probably what most wine travelers have in mind when considering Porto wine tasting tours. This four-hour Port wine tasting is led by a knowledgeable wine guide. While visiting three different lodges, guests will taste seven different Port wines, while learning about the wine and the history of the region. The tour also includes a visit to an interactive museum about Porto.
Why Book This Tour:
- This is the best way to visit several Port wine cellars without the hassle of booking your own tastings.
- The price of the tour includes all wine tastings and entry tickets to all activities.
- The tour generally ends at a wine lodge with views over the city, perfect for snapping a selfie.
Things To Consider When Booking This Porto Tour:
- This tour is not wheelchair accessible and children must be accompanied by parents. Also, the minimum drinking age is 18 years.
- There is no hotel pickup or drop-off. The tour starts at the bridge that crosses the river to Vila Nova de Gaia and finished in that neighborhood.
- No food is included with this tour.
Private Porto Wine Tour
Sometimes the best wine tasting in Porto is a private city tour. On this six-hour private tour of Porto, you will taste both Port wines and Douro Valley wines. The tour also includes a city tour, to get an overview of the history and architecture of Porto. Stops include the Porto Cathedral, The São Bento Train Station, and one of the local Porto markets. We covered all of these stops with our private driver and guide as well. But, this tour hits a few more stops than ours did.
Why Book This Private Porto City Tour And Wine Tasting:
- This tour includes a driving tour along the coastal road, which enables visitors to see a little more of the city than on a typical Porto walking tour. It’s also a great way to see Porto if you are not renting your own car.
- The tour includes a visit to one of the Port wine lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia to learn about the history and production of Port wine. The visit finished with a tasting of Port wine.
Things To Consider Before Booking:
- This tour is a pretty good value for a private tour that lasts almost all day. But, the tour does not include the cost of lunch or entry fees to the wine cellar, which will be extra. They make recommendations on where to eat lunch, but it is not required to choose their restaurant. Check out our Porto Food Guide for recommendations.
- A minimum of two people is required for the private tour, but it can be booked for a group of up to eight people.
Book A Porto River Cruise, City Tour, And Wine Tasting
This is a comprehensive all-day tour of Porto, which kind of includes just about everything in it. It’s the best way to see as much of the city as possible in a short amount of time. The tour includes a one-hour boat tour of the river, as well as a three-hour walking tour of the city. At the end of the day, the tour includes a Port wine tasting.
Why Book This Tour:
- A Porto boat tour is a great way to see the city from a different perspective.
- It’s a good option if on a short visit to Porto because it covers everything in one day.
Things To Consider Before Booking This Tour:
- The tour visits a handful of museums and attractions, which are included in the cost of the tour. But, the tour will stop at several other top Porto attractions where the guide will share the history of the building, but the entrance is not included. It’s always possible to return later on your own. It is impossible to visit every historic landmark in one day so the walking tour is an overview.
- The tour includes lunch at a traditional Portuguese restaurant as well as a Port wine tasting in the city. The tour doesn’t include a visit to one of the Port wine lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia that most of the other Port wine tours visit.
Booking a Food Tour in Porto
Food tours in Porto most often involve tasting Port wine, but focus more on food than the wine tasting tours mentioned above. This three-hour Porto food tour includes tasting a little Port wine but also includes trying Porto traditional foods like bacalhau and pastel de nata. The guide tries to share interesting facts about Portuguese food culture as well, particularly during a visit to a local Portuguese market.
Why Book This Tour:
- If you are not thrilled with the idea of drinking loads of Port wine, this tour focuses more on food than Port.
- The tour can be booked in the morning or the afternoon for travelers who need more flexibility.
Things To Consider When Booking This Tour:
- This Porto walking tour requires comfortable shoes, but the distance traveled is not extensive
- The tour does not offer hotel pickup or drop-off but starts and ends in the city center
Booking A Small-Group Tour From Porto To The Douro Valley
Many of the best Porto day trips involve a journey to the Douro Valley, one of the most famous European wine destinations. As far as we are concerned, a Douro Valley wine tour is a must. This full-day Douro Valley wine tour includes wine tastings and a traditional Portuguese lunch, along with a guide and transportation from Porto. The day is spent wine tasting with views of the green hills of the Douro Valley. One of the wine tasting stops also includes a tasting of Port wine.
Why Book This Douro Valley Tour:
- Transportation is by van or bus, but there is an option to upgrade to a Porto to Douro boat trip on a sightseeing Rabelo boat. A Rabelo boat is a traditional, wooden cargo ship used to transport wine and people down the river into Porto.
- The group is limited to only eight guests, meaning it’s an exclusive group and the guide can offer personalized attention to each guest.
- The tour generally includes a stop in the village of Pinhão, which is home to one of the most beautiful, albeit small, train stations.
Things To Consider When Booking This Tour:
- Wine tours from Porto include hotel pickup and drop-off at hotels in the center of Porto. It takes about 90 minutes to drive into the Douro. Some of the roads can be a little windy, be prepared if you get car sick.
- It is a full-day tour. Pickup might be as early as 7:30- 8 am depending on the hotel’s location. The tour ends around 6:30 pm.
- The tour is conducted in English, but can also be conducted in Spanish, French, and Portuguese if needed
Port wine is fortified, which does mean it is stronger. Whereas most wines range between 12-15% most Port wine ranges between 18-19%.
In general, Port wine is drank as a dessert wine. It pairs really well with cheese as well as chocolates and sorbet. It can also be drunk as an aperitif with pickles or olives. The best way to taste port wine, though, is during a Port wine tour that offers food pairings or tastings. If you like chocolate, check out this Port wine and chocolate tasting.
There are several marquee port wine brands in Portugal worth buying. Three of the most famous are Sandeman, Graham’s, and Taylor’s. Each is an excellent producer of port wine and should be sampled.
There is a common misunderstanding when it comes to Porto wineries. Porto does NOT have any wineries. All of the wineries that produce wine for port are located in the Douro Valley. This wine is then transported to Porto where the various port houses produce port. Being a city, there is no space to grow grapes.