Enjoying Port Wine in Porto PortugalTourists and locals bask in the warmth on the sun-drenched banks of Gaia, Portugal, seated at outdoor cafes sipping various Port wines and gazing out across the sparkling Douro River at Porto. Music drifts on the breeze and life flows on in a leisurely fashion in this charming Portuguese town.
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Wineries in Gaia blend and age the Port wine. The town of Gaia, (pronounced Guy-ya) is the home of Portugal's best Port wineries. Ferreira and Offley are among the finest Port wineries in Gaia and they produce superior Port wines. They also offer excellent and informative tours of their wineries with a tasting provided at the end of the Tour.
FerreiraTomas Costa, of Ferreira, guides guests through the majestic winery, a family-run business since 1751. The stone walls, wooden beamed ceilings and cobblestone floors lend a perfect backdrop for the huge wooden vats and multitudes of smaller oak barrels stacked to the ceiling that store the various Ports. Cool air pervades Ferreira winery and mixes with the glorious scent of wine emanating from the oak barrels, as guests stroll with their tour guide and learn about the history and process of making Port wine. Port is sweet because the fermentation process is stopped by the addition of a neutral brandy, thus retaining much of the grapes' natural sugars. This is also why Port is referred to as fortified wine.
There are several categories of Port wines produced such as, Tawnys, Rubies, Brancos, (white) Late Bottled Vintages and Vintages. Tawny Port is generally aged in smaller oak barrels and has more contact with the oak and air giving it a lighter color and flavor. Ruby Ports, produced in large wooden vats, are aged for shorter periods and the reduced contact with the oak and air leave more of the wine's original characteristics. Branco Port, made from white grapes, are generally categorized into dry, semi-dry, extra dry and a few other specialty types made by various wineries. The Branco Port is served chilled between eight to ten Celsius.
If you visit Ferreira, or wish to peruse the internet for a wine merchant that will ship Ferreira Port to you, try the Duque De Braganca Old Tawny Port 20 years. This magnificent Port is smooth and complex and rolls gently over your palate. It is delicious alone, or with mild cheese.
Ferreira is a superb, distinguished and sophisticated winery with a long history of producing some of the region's highest quality Port wines. The gracious and knowledgeable staff provides guests with a fascinating tour and exemplary Port wine tasting session. They are open Monday Saturday, with appointments on Sunday. Additional information on Ferreira listed at the conclusion of this article.
OffleyOffley is an exuberant Port winery founded in 1737 by Joseph James Forrester. A scholar and an artist, Forrester was also a cartographer and a copy of his Douro region map hangs in the winery today. This innovative winery is located up the hill from the main avenue of Ramos Pinto, but is a must! Vasco Silva, a charming and convivial guide, welcomes guests on an in-depth tour of Offley's cellars. Silva explains the difference between Ports and Vintage Ports; Vintage Port is made from one exceptional year of grapes and continues to mature in the bottle and improve. Vintages are best to lie down and drink them 12 years or more after the vintage. Once a Vintage Port wine is opened, it must be consumed within one to two days, or the wine will react with air and will loose its flavor and characteristics. Regular Ports are aged before bottling and are ready for drinking upon opening. These Ports tend to last about four months once opened.
Offley winery offers one of the most comprehensive tours in Gaia and they do not rush you through the cellars. Guests obtain a better overall understanding of Port wine making in a relaxed environment. Offley also takes time for a delectable and unforgettable tasting session at the end of their tour. The contemporary staff obviously loves the Port wine business and they help guests to appreciate and gain enthusiasm for Port wines. If you visit Offley Winery, you may be lucky enough to taste a Vintage Port. Offley's Boa Vista Vintage Port 1999 is an exceptional Port with a fragrant berry and fruity bouquet that deserves a rich chocolate confection. Additional information on Offley listed at the conclusion of this article.
And MoreThere are over 20 Port wineries in Gaia, such as Sandeman, Graham's, Taylor's, Ramos Pintos and Krohn, to name a few. Moreover, they offer an excellent opportunity to sample and experience the history and culture of Port wine and of Northern Portugal. The narrow cobblestone streets that wind through the local shops and wineries offer the visitor a glimpse of everyday life into the friendly and charming people of this small community.
Meander through the shops and wineries as the locals do, in an unhurried pace and sip a glass of Port, or nibble on a plate of cheese at one of the many restaurants and cafes that line the sunny banks of the Douro river.
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Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel and is a regular correspondent for travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure. Visit her website Travel-Excursion for more information.