To be honest, before I came to Porto, I had no idea that port wine got its name from this city! It turns out that the making and exporting of port wine has quite a history here in Porto. While I was here, I learned a more about what goes into making it.
The process starts with growing and harvesting the grapes in the Duoro Valley. The next step to crush the grapes by stomping on them. Why do you think they use the human foot for this task? The shape and texture of the foot is hard enough to crush the grapes, but soft enough to keep the seeds from bursting open and making the port wine bitter. Nowadays, many of the port wine makers are starting to use machines equipped with plastic feet to crush the grapes instead of real human feet.
After this, the wine is placed into barrels, and transported back to the port lodge cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia across the river from Porto. From many years, they used a “rabelo” flat-bottom boat to transport the port wine in barrels down the Duoro River. Here are some pictures of the rabelo boats:
The transport of the port wine on the Duoro River was a very challenging and dangerous task for many years. Before river dams were built, the boat crews had to maneouver fast-moving rapids along the way. Then to get the boats back up the river again, teams of oxen were used to pull the boats through the most difficult areas of the river. As you can see in the painting below, it was also a dangerous task to get the heavy barrels into the boats.
(The above painting is currently located in the Stock Exchange Palace, Palacio da Bolsa in Porto.)
The next step was to store the port wine in the port lodge cellars. Here is picture of some of the port lodges. You can see their names written in big letters above their building:
There are different kinds of port wine and different ways of storing it. Some port wine is stored in barrels (wood-aged port) and other port wine is stored in glass bottles (bottle-aged port.) Here are some pictures from inside the Graham Port Wine Lodge Cellar.
Wine in regular-sized barrels:
Wine in extra large barrels:
Wine in glass bottles:
Because port wine is sweeter than other wines, it is usually served after dinner as a dessert wine. At the end of the Graham Port Lodge tour, you can try three different kinds of port wine. Of course, I was too little to taste it, but my friend, Julie tried port wine for the first time. She said that her favorite one of the three was Graham’s 30-year old Tawny.
Now if anyone asks you what the city of Porto is famous for…you will know the answer…port wine! Is your hometown famous for something as well? If so, what is it?
Your traveling friend,