What beverage did Andreas and I learn to appreciate while we were on holiday?
I’ll give you a hint. We were in Portugal. In a city called Porto.
Yes, you got it.
Within the EU, only fortified wine from this particular region in northern Portugal is allowed to be called port. They grow the grapes in a designated area called the Douro valley. Andreas and I found out there was a daily steam train excursion running on the Linha do Douro through the valley. Steam trains? Wine? We’re in.
It was a beautiful day and a gorgeous ride along the Douro river. We saw acres and acres of vineyards, some with signs identifying which of the port houses they belong to. Attendants handed out snacks and little cups of port as we chugged along. There were even some traditional musicians along to entertain us on board and at the tiny tiled stations.
Later in the week, we walked across one of the bridges from Porto to Gaia, the city on the opposite side of the river.
The grapes for port wine are crushed in the countryside, then trucked into Gaia to be made into port. The old port houses are clustered together near the river, and most offer tasting tours.
We took the tour at Ferreira first
and then one at Cálem. On both tours we heard how the natural fermentation of the wine is arrested by adding a neutral brandy while there is still a lot of sugar in the wine. This fortifies the wine, making it stronger, and also leaving it sweeter. Tawny port is aged in wooden barrels for a long time, sometimes 40 years or more.
Afterwards and in between we enjoyed the lively scene along the riverside
Feeling fortified, we made our way back across the bridge to home.