Overlook Bordeaux and Bruges: Wine and chocolate lovers ought to ebook a visit to Porto

If you consider Porto, Portugal’s second metropolis, the primary issues that come to thoughts are most likely azulejos adorning each road, spectacular bridges traversing Douro river, pasteis de nata and – in fact – Port.

However for too lengthy, certainly one of Porto’s key cultural exports has been missed – regardless of areas just like the Douro Valley typically being cited among the many world heavyweights. What we’re speaking about, in fact, is wine – or extra particularly, wine that isn’t Port.

It’s no secret that Europe produces a number of the most interesting wines on this planet. From the rolling vineyards of Bordeaux to the picturesque plateaus of Piedmont, winemaking is a key a part of European historical past. It has performed a giant function in placing sure locations on the map. Porto – and its proximity to the Douro Valley – is firmly on that map.

So why do Portuguese exports nonetheless solely make up about 3 per cent of the worldwide market share?

I visited the town for 72 hours with the only ambition of discovering out as a lot as I might about Portuguese wine (don’t fear, I didn’t style all 340 varieties produced throughout the nation in that timeframe).

The mission directed me to the foremost growth that’s World of Wine, positioned within the metropolis’s Vila Nova de Gaia district. Shifting forwards, we’ll name it WOW as a result of – effectively, it’s.

Owned by the Fladgate Partnership – a descendant of the Taylor’s Port dynasty – this hub of high quality eating places, suave bars and interactive, participating museums is altering the sport with regards to educating guests about Portuguese wine.

Right here’s what I learnt.

Portuguese wine is all about group values

Very similar to the remainder of this various nation, group is on the coronary heart of Portugal’s wine manufacturing. The perspective may be very a lot: we’re rivals on the grocery store cabinets, however how can we share data and study collectively?

Throughout a session at WOW’s in-house wine college all about ‘demystifying wine’, it was put fairly just by our instructor for the day and a grasp within the commerce, Jose:

“What units Portuguese wine aside is its tradition. We compete globally by way of our backstory, our know-how constructed over generations, the standard and character of our wine.”

It’s this concept of ‘know-how’ that piqued my curiosity.

Serious about the idea by way of geography, Portugal is a comparatively small nation, but its total space of vineyards is the fourth largest in Europe. There are 340 grape varieties grown throughout the nation. 240 of those are native (all issues I learnt in our two-hour class). That’s a whole lot of overlap between the producers curating their crop – particularly when a majority of them are neighbours working within the Douro Valley.

What makes this specific area so excellent for grape rising is 2 parts. The valley’s local weather and its soil.

Dry and heat by nature, the Douro Valley’s ‘continental’ temperatures can attain 40 to 50C through the day and drop to 10C at evening. The vineyards are shielded from unpredictable coastal climate and wind by the Serra do Marão, a conveniently positioned mountain which accurately acts as a pure barrier between the valley and the ocean.

In the meantime, the soil is essentially slate-based. Whereas that makes it arguably devoid of vitamins, it heats up through the day, holds the heat and releases it at evening, maintaining the vines comfortable. It additionally naturally absorbs a whole lot of water and – as all regional soils do – contributes to the general flavour of the wine.

The artwork of rising grapes in these circumstances has been perfected by way of dialog, tried and examined strategies and sharing what works all through years of winemaking within the area.

Throughout my keep, I used to be a visitor at The Yeatman – a luxurious lodge that nearly mimics a winery in its layered construction – and offers a number of the finest views within the metropolis. It’s been designed so that each room faces out throughout the river, offering company with THE view of Porto. Actually the postcard.

The Yeatman and WOW collectively are carefully affiliated with lots of Douro Valley’s prime producers. And one-touch which, once more, simply actually introduced house the sense of group spirit – was that each room is known as after their companions in wine.

Not solely that however the winemakers, whose names adorn the doorways, put just a few of their very own private possessions in each. Be it a bottle or two from their winery, their favorite books or some art work.

I left my journey feeling warmed by this information.

There’s much more to wine than what’s within the bottle

The experiences at WOW go above and past simply the liquid within the bottle.

One in all WOW’s museums is fully devoted to cork. Portugal is definitely the world’s largest producer of cork, with the world’s largest focus of quercus suber forests mendacity within the south.

One other spotlight is certainly the consuming vessel assortment belonging to Adrian Bridge, CEO of WOW. Courting again 9,000 years, from clay to ceramic and thru to the modern-day glass, it’s house to just about 2,000 items altogether.

However one factor I used to be particularly curious about seeing was the a part of the palatial web site devoted to chocolate. The Chocolate Story museum is the closest factor I’ve seen to a real-life Willy Wonka manufacturing facility. Admittedly, there’s no chocolate river, however I wouldn’t put it previous the visionaries behind the WOW mission to discover that as a chance.

Now, sit me down in a room with 5 glasses of wine and 5 several types of chocolate and inform me we’re doing a tasting for the following few hours, and also you’ve bought one delighted journey author in your arms. Particularly when our host, Pedro Martins Araújo, turns the dialog right into a debate about client versus company duty with regards to the road of manufacturing.

Pedro’s model, Vinte Vinte, is the results of years of analysis, relationship-building and business experience. He advised us tales concerning the folks he had met in Venezuela, Madagascar, Peru and Uganda.

“The perfect chocolate,” he says, “should not have any greater than two components.”

I’m not arguing with anybody who essentially believes wine and chocolate is the proper mixture.

What else is there to do in Porto?

Porto is a vibrant, coastal metropolis house to just about 1 / 4 of 1,000,000 folks. Small however mighty, locals take nice delight in the truth that the town hasn’t been conquered for the reason that 1300s, regardless of France’s finest efforts.

Wandering the colorful streets, crammed with buildings that nearly look askew, might take up a complete day alone.

Porto can also be a fast-growing foodie hub – two unmissable dishes embrace pasteis de natas along with your morning espresso and the enduring francesinha, a meat-stuffed, cheese-wrapped sandwich finest loved with a chilly bottle of Superbock. For the extra adventurous, dobrada is a conventional stew made with tripe (cow’s abdomen) and white beans.

Should-see sights embrace the Ponte de Dom Luís I (not you could miss it) – a colossal feat of building spanning 172 metres large and standing two tiers excessive.

A World Heritage Website and positioned within the metropolis’s historic district, Igreja de São Francisco is a must-see for its intricate interiors. The unimposing facade hides a labyrinth of Baroque design that’s typically cited because the nation’s most interesting.

The climbable Clérigos Tower is likely one of the finest views in Porto. Taking you 75 metres above the town, it’s price planning the 240-step ascent earlier than you tuck right into a hearty francesinha. Firstly – helps you are feeling such as you’ve earned it. However extra importantly, there’s no medical proof to state simply what the cheese, carb and meat feast does to your arteries, so finest to keep away from vigorous train immediately after consumption.

Within the historic Ribeira district, you possibly can expertise Porto’s heritage as an estuary city firsthand. The clue is kind of actually within the title. As one of many oldest neighbourhoods within the metropolis, it’s the perfect space to seek out quiet cobbled streets dotted with hidden eating places and bars that serve native favourites like sardines and seabass.

The majestic Sé Cathedral is a Romanesque Catholic church and one of many metropolis’s oldest buildings. It’s additionally identified merely as Porto Cathedral.

I might go on for hours however my remaining suggestion for a go to is the Bolsa Palace. A dominating presence on the Porto skyline, it has a room made fully of gold leaf. One of many metropolis’s youthful buildings, it got here into being within the nineteenth century – ‘bolsa’ means inventory change.

Right this moment, it’s open to guests and is commonly used to welcome dignitaries and heads of state to the town.

Although I spent simply 72 hours on this Portuguese metropolis, I learnt greater than I ever thought I might about its tradition and group. One in all my largest takeaways will likely be simply how missed this nation is as a producer of world-class wines.