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Can’t Miss Wine Cellars in Porto

Emily Becker

Senior Contributor

No trip to Portugal is complete without at least one tour of a port wine cellar. Originally fortified in order to preserve the wine over the long journey from the vineyards to ships where it was sent to customers around the world, port wine is rich and sweet and has been a staple of Portugal’s culture since the 1100s. While the grapes are cultivated in the Douro River valley (which alone is also worth a trip), for centuries, Porto, on the northern coast of the country, has been where almost every barrel of port is aged before being shipped around the world. Today, there are several historic wine cellars still in operation in the area; check out the list below for some of the best places for spending the afternoon sipping a glass of Portugal’s most delicious export.

Espaço Porto Cruz

On the Gaia waterfront, Espaço Porto Cruz seeks to celebrate port wine through all the senses. The four-story building includes restaurant De Castro Gaia and two floors dedicated to a free, interactive exhibit about port wine that includes a virtual tour of the vineyard, winery and cellars in the Douro River Valley. The tastings are guided by a professional sommelier, and special wine and cheese tastings or wine and chocolate flights are available on certain days. Artwork by Portuguese sculptor Carlos Barreira is found throughout and add a touch of modernity to the historic building. But no visit to Espaço Porto Cruz is complete without a glass of wine or a cocktail on the rooftop lounge that offers 360-degree views of Vila Nova de Gaia and old-town Porto. And the killer views only get better at sunset. 

Cálem Cellars

The Cálem Cellars across the river from Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia is one of the most popular wine cellars in the area. A visit there starts out at the interactive museum where you’ll learn about the history of winemaking in the Douro Valley before taking a tour through the historic winery. Each tour also includes a port wine tasting, but the real move here is to opt for the tour where your wine tasting is held alongside traditional Portuguese fado dance. The performance is held in the wine cellar, which serves as the perfect backdrop for the chance to combine two of Portugal’s great traditions.  

Sandeman Port House

With its sign featuring the brand’s larger-than-life figurehead, the “Sandeman Don,” this wine cellar is certainly hard to miss. Since 1811, Sandeman port has been aged in barrels and casks in its namesake cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. A trip today includes a tour of the interactive museum where you’ll learn about the history of the brand, the Sandeman antique bottle collection and a tour through the wine cellars themselves. There are multiple tasting options, but the 1790 visit, named for the year George Sandeman first started his wine and sherry business, includes a private tasting of five of the company’s wines. Sandeman also has its own hotel and restaurant with a riverside terrace if you want to prolong your stay. 

Caves Ferreira

Much of the thanks for keeping the Porto Ferreira brand alive since its inception in 1751 has to go to Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira. Twice widowed, Dona Antónia took over the family business at the age of 33 and strengthened and expanded the company while also making sure to give back to the families in the Douro region. Today, Porto Ferreira is the only major port wine house that has remained in Portuguese hands since its founding. Choose the “Visit Porto Vintage” tour at the wine cellars for a private tasting of some of the winery’s best bottles, three vintage ports from three different decades. 

Taylor’s

One of the oldest port houses in the area, Taylor’s has been ageing and bottling port since 1692. (Peter Bearsley, the son of the company’s founder, is said to have been the first English winemaker to actually visit the vineyards in the Douro River valley.) Taylor’s is known for creating new styles of port, including the Chip Dry made with white grapes, and late bottled vintages that are allowed to age in the wooden casks longer than traditional bottles. At the company’s wine cellars in Porto, in addition to a tour of the cellars, you can also book a private food and wine tasting or work on becoming a master of port yourself with a lesson in how to mix your own port cocktails.  

Graham’s Lodge

Up a ridge on the banks of the Douro River, Graham’s Lodge is working cellar that also offers some pretty commanding views of Porto when it’s time to relax after work with a glass of port. For a more leisurely visit, after a tour through the cellars, book a tasting in the Vintage Room, where you’ll sample three of the company’s wines in a space filled with books, armchairs and artefacts from Graham’s almost 200-year history that feels like a private club. There’s also a restaurant and wine bar with a spectacular terrace for enjoying the afternoon in the sun. Reservations to the Lodge are required in advance. 

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