Sunday, April 21, 2013

Port cave tour and tasting at Calem: You drink Port at the end of the meal!

Firstly, there is a myriad of port tasting cave places in Porto, although technically speaking the caves are located in Vila Nova de Gaia and not Porto. It is the town district located across the Douro River from Porto. Here at Vila Nova de Gaia you will find Portugal’s fortified port wine industry, this is where port is stored and aged in large oak vats.


Port Cave Tour in Vila Nova de Gaia

Now I chose Calem as this was the first port cave (warehouse) from the Dom Luis I Bridge and I was running out of time. It was about 16:30 and I thought all the caves are closing at 17:30—well, some close an hour later actually but I did not take chances. I need to do the port tasting now as I had other plans the next day.

I chose the special program: ‘Calem cave tour + Port tasting + Fado’. This special program however begins at 18:30 and I realised that I was too early, so instead, I sneaked in and joined a group doing the cave tour, and afterwards, the port tasting.

I will just have to come back later at 18:30 for the Fado, which is a traditional Portuguese musical act held in the Calem port caves.


This is the oldest sales - trading log book of the company!


The English tour guide of Calem.


Finally, it is Port tasting time!

For starters, and don’t worry this is not going to be a scientific lecture about port, this at least will give you an idea about this sweet fortified wine called port.


Trivia: Did you know that the Portuguese drink port wine at the end of the meal? They are primarily seen as digestifs in Portugal and not the other way around.

However, one can argue that it is all about preference. In France, and I know here in the Netherlands, and I guess in many countries as well—Port is drank as an aperitif. The only rule Portuguese people would insist is that when it is white port or when the red port is light and very sweet then you can drink it as an aperitif, such as for example, a tawny. If the port is strong and full bodied, such as the most consumed, ruby, then better drink it as a digestif.

So here at the tasting, I finished 2 glasses of port, the Tawny Port and the White Port.


Types of Port wines

For the curious ones out there of course....

‘VINTAGE PORT’ – The premium of all port wines. The older they are the more expensive. Best drank when it’s over 15 years old. Another rare variant of vintage port is ‘Garrafeira’. Vintage port is strictly regulated in Portugal. My favourite!

‘LATE BOTTLED VINTAGE’ – They are from a single harvest and are intended for vintage bottling however have stayed longer in the barrel—hence the name ‘late bottled vintage’. They are bottled up to 6 years.

‘TAWNY PORT’ – This is a blended port wine and aged starting from 3 years and above. Light and mellow. A variant of tawny port is ‘Colheita’


‘RUBY PORT’ – The most popular port wine sold and what you mostly see in your supermarket or wine store. This is another blended port, aged up to 3 years. They are strong, sweet and full-bodied.

‘RESERVE’ or ‘VINTAGE CHARACTER PORT’ – A blend of several premium ruby wines given more aging up to 5 years.

‘ROSE PORT’ – This is technically a ruby port but fermented in the same manner as a rose wine, thus the light rose colour.

‘WHITE PORT’ – They are from white grapes and are intended as an aperitif.

‘SINGLE QUINTA’ – The port is from a single harvest from a single vineyard estate.

‘CRUSTED PORT’ – This is for the low volume market, catering mainly to the British market. The port is bottled without filtering hence the crust that forms at the bottom of the bottle.


I hope this entry makes you Port wiser!

Travel Period: March 2013
Destination: Vila Nova de Gaia (Grande Porto), Portugal

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