Port wine gets its name from the city of Porto in Portugal. So of course, no visit to Porto would be complete without going to a port house to try some of the local wine! Across the river from the old city center of Porto is Vila Nova de Gaia, where all the port houses are located. While you are in Gaia, you should also really ride the cable car for a great view of the city. You could take an organized port tour, but you can also easily do it on your own. We decided to make it a relaxing afternoon and go at our own pace.
How to Get to Gaia
From the old town area of Porto, you can either walk or take an uber across the river. Then, to get the best views I suggest you take the cable car from the Ponte Luis I Bridge (upper station) to Cais de Gaia (lower station). It’s a little pricey – €6 for one way or €9 for round trip – but I think it’s worth it. The trip lasts about five minutes and you will cover about 600 meters, so you can always walk if you prefer. You should consider that you are purchasing an experience rather than a transportation method. Plus, as a bonus, we each got a coupon for one port tasting at the Quevedo Port Wine House.
Riding the Gaia Cable Car
Before you go on the cable car, be sure to enjoy the view from in front of the station. It’s a great photo spot with the Douro River and Porto in the background. When we got on the cable car, it wasn’t crowded at all and we had a whole car to ourselves. It’s a short distance and the ride was very smooth. The views of the river and the old town are beautiful. The one issue we had was the sun was really strong so several of our photos had a lot of reflections.
After your cable car ride, you will be right in the heart of the Port Houses. There are different options for tours and tasting combinations at each port house, and you may need to make a reservation at some of them. We had already had a bit to drink during the Porto Food Tour we did earlier that day, so we wanted to try and pace ourselves.
Visiting the Offley Port House
We started our afternoon at the Offley Port House. They have several different levels of tastings and tours. We choose the Classic Tour, which was €6 each and included a tasting of 2 ports. You do not need a reservation in summer months. Out of season, the tours are by appointment only.
The tour is offered in English as well as Portuguese. By chance, we arrived just in time for an English tour. The tour was brief but we learned about the story of the Baron of Forrester, one of the most significant figures in the history of port wine. We walked through the areas where the port was being made and where the port was being aged. It was dark so it was hard to take photos. Our tour guide also went over the different types of port such as tawny, ruby, rose, and white. I had tried both tawny and ruby before.
After the tour, we went to the tasting room. We didn’t get to choose which two ports to try. Our tour guide gave us a brief introduction to what we were tasting and then we tried our ports. This was the first time I had tasted a white port. I like sweet wines, so I enjoyed it.
Port Tasting at the Quevedo Port Wine House
We had been given a coupon for a free tasting at Quevedo Port Wine House as part of the ticket price for the Gaia cable car, so we went there next. We didn’t do a tour, we just relaxed at a table and tasted a few ports. The first one was free but we purchased a few higher end ones to compare. To my untrained palate, it all tasted good.
I like port, but I have a lot more to learn about it. Regardless, I had a great time tasting the ports and learning a little more about it. Are you a port fan or expert? Have you ever done a port tasting?
Expert Tips for Port House Visits and the Gaia Cable Car:
- Some port houses will require a reservation so if you have one you have your heart set on, you should contact them in advance.
- The Cable Car is a great way to get to the area where the port houses are, but you can also walk if you want to save money.
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