Porto is famous for one thing above anything else – port wine. For the uninitiated,”port wine” is the English translation from “vinho do Porto” – or wine of Porto. Unique to the area, port wine is fortified wine, created when aguardente (fire water, basically – but some people refer to it as brandy) is added to the wine. Historically, this was done to help the wine, on its long sea journey to England, keep some residual sugar and hence increase its alcohol content.
The Porto connection to port wine came about during the 1700s because Porto was the port where the fortified wine was shipped from. In fact the wine is made up in the Douro valley, further inland, and then shipped to be stored in barrels in the “caves” (or cellars) at Cais de Gaia, in Vila Nova de Gaia. It is here that tourists flock to enjoy river cruises and tours of the cellars.
You pay about €4 per person for a tour of the cellars at Sandeman, Ferreira, Calém, Croft etc. However, the best deal you can get is to look out for cruise agents along the busy pedestrian walkways of Cais de Gaia. These people will offer you a cruise ticket with a port wine cellar tour for an all-in price of about €10 – which is a saving because the river cruise alone is usually €10 per person.
The cruise is a “five bridges” cruise, where you go up river and then to the river mouth at Foz, then back again for your wine cellar tour – at the end of which you will be able to taste some exquisite port wine.