Visiting Porto

Buyer Jo Locke MW reports on an opportunity for consumers, not just the trade, to take part in a spectacular event in this beautiful city

An early trip timed to assess fresh new 2016 whites, and to take advantage of two great tasting opportunities: Essencia do Vinho in Porto and SISAB in Lisbon. The latter is a trade-only event, but Essencia is primarily aimed at consumers – and I've never been to such a spectacular event.

Essencia do Vinho, Oporto

Held in the beautiful Palacio da Bolsa in the centre of Porto, Essencia is a go-to event for lovers of Portuguese wines. Fortified wines are well represented too, and with around 3,000 wines available and most of the biggest names in Portugal represented, this is an unbeatable opportunity, and in my view well worth the normal 20€ entry fee.

Palacio da Bolsa

I was invited as a judge again this year but the culmination of our Wine Championship tastings in Stevenage made it impossible for me to attend the full programme, so I opted just to drop in on the last day.

It does get busy, and with music playing throughout there is quite a party atmosphere (both inside and later outside the venue!), but this is a well-organised event in spectacular surroundings and I would thoroughly recommend it, particularly as part of a vinous city break.

Wine tourism in the Douro

Oenotourism is booming in Portugal and the Port producers have led the way with the redevelopment of the Port lodges just across the river from Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia.

The Dom Luís I bridge, designed by Gustav Eiffel, over the Douro linking Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, where the Port houses have their lodges and cellars
View of the River and Oporto
The Dom Luís I bridge, designed by Théodore Seyrig, a disciple of Gustav Eiffel, over the Douro linking Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, where the Port houses have their lodges and cellars

The highlight for me is the Graham's lodge, with its beautifully laid out 'museum' (don't let the name put you off – it's small and fascinating, as well as an elegantly designed history of the port trade, and of the influential Symington family in particular), and tasting room, wine & gift shop, and smart but relaxed Vinum restaurant, with its stunning views over the river and the city.

View of Oporto from the smart but relaxed Vinum Restaurant at Graham's lodge View of Oporto from the smart but relaxed Vinum Restaurant at Graham's lodge

The Taylor's lodge has a more traditional feel but was buzzing with beautiful young folk on my last visit and the Taylor Fladgate team, under the driving leadership of MD Adrian Bridge have been at the forefront of top-end and boutique hotel openings.

Up river there are now numerous lovely places to stay and producers are thoroughly geared up for visitors. Dow's visitor centre is ideal, just a hop and a skip from the station at Pinhão, and if you go at harvest time you can witness the modern marvel of machine 'treading' of the grapes.

Quinta Nova's boutique hotel just outside Pinhão has stunning views of the river and its vineyards and they will even drive down to pick you up if you arrive by boat or train!

Our website offers a short selection of our top picks of places to stay and visit.

Where to go next?

The Minho: Wines of the moment >

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Members' Comments (3)

"Re Joanna Locke's interesting report on Porto and the Essencia do Vinho event, at what sort of date does this take place in the year , so we can plan ahead?

By the way, the Ponte Luis bridge in Porto was designed by Théodore Seyrig. Gustave Eiffel was responsible for the Maria Pia railway bridge, the next bridge up river, now disused but perhaps the most elegant of Porto's bridges. It's a common mistake amongst tourists - bit like... Read more > confusing Tower Bridge and London Bridge.

Best wishes
Barry Arden

Mr Barry Arden (17-Jul-2017)

"Glad you found Jo’s report interesting. The Essencia do Vinho event takes place towards the end of February. The dates for 2018 are 22nd – 25th of February. Thanks for pointing out the error about the Ponte Luis bridge – you are quite right. Gustave Eiffel’s design for the bridge was rejected I read! Kind regards."

Joanna Goodman, News & Content Editor (18-Jul-2017)

"Just back from a Douro cruise including visits to 'tourist tastings' at Sandeman and Ferreira. Much preferred the latter with its trip through cellars and museum. Excellent holiday with good regional food and wines (enjoyed Porca do Branca white and Vila Real red). Jo's visit report is encouraging me to go for a two centre holiday next year for my wife's 70th.
Whoever designed and built it, a ride on the cable car up to the Luis 1 bridge and a... Read more > metro ride across it were fun.
Keith W

Mr Keith Wilson (21-Jul-2017)

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