Go on, give it a try!
Surely any trip to Porto isn’t complete without a taster of the local tipple of Port.
So, you’ve ventured over the Dom Luís I Bridge to catch one of Porto’s most iconic views. You stroll along the Gaia side of the Douro, enjoying the hustle and bustle on and off the river. It’s time to decided which port cellar you’re going to visit.
You really are spoilt for choice; we considered Taylor’s, Ferreira, Dow & Graham’s. However, we decide to take a cellar tour with Sandeman; ‘The Don’ swung it for us.
You have the option of different types of tours (in different languages), although the Classic Tour was the only one available that afternoon. It lasts about 1 hour and includes a guided tour through the cellar, a movie on the background of Sandeman and a couple of glasses of Port to enjoy at the end.
A Scottish background
The history of Sandeman dates back to 1790. When the son of a Scottish cabinet-maker George Sandeman, borrowed £300 from his father to set up a Port & Sherry business in London.
In 1805, its headquarters were in St Swithin’s Lane in the City of London, where a Roman vault was used as a cellar. George shipped his barrels of fortified wine from Oporto for his Port, and Jerez for the Sherry, to blend and bottle them in the cellars below St Swithin’s Lane.
What I had completely forgotten about until we embarked on the Sandeman tour was that I had previously eaten in what is now ‘The Don’ restaurant in St Swithin’s Lane. The jigsaw finally came together.
The artwork that is so synonymous with the Sandeman brand was created in 1928.
It marries the Portuguese student’s cape with the wide-brimmed hat, of the Spanish Caballeros de Jerez.
Bringing them together to create a symbol of the two origins of Port and Sherry.
Although, it wasn’t until 1935 that the silhouette was named ‘The Don’.
Kept in the dark
Our guide for the tour dressed in The Don outfit and leads us down into the cellars where he talks us through the process of producing Port.
As we wind our way between the towering wooden barrels which are used for the ageing process of the port, the aroma of the wine is incredible.
Over 220 years
The tour and the movie are really informative of the history behind the methods and how the progress of time has in some instances changed the productivity. Conversely, in other cases, they still retain the age-old techniques of maturing, that have stood the test of time.
However, the colourful flat-bottom Rabelo boats, that used to ship the wine along the Douro River from the valley are no longer used. Today they add a lovely piece of unique history to the city.
Under lock & key
As the tour continues we pass by some of Sandeman’s prized vintages and their most treasured wines. All kept out of our reach behind locked gates, we could only dream of tasting these.
A little interesting fact is that an average of 21 bottles of Sandeman wines is bought worldwide every minute.
A little taster
Our Sandeman visit is coming to an end so that can only mean one thing, we’re going to enjoy a little taster. We were given a Ruby and a 7-year-old Tawny port to try, both were very enjoyable. Just like our Sherry tasting in Jerez, it’s given us the incentive to discover more about this little tipple.
It also gave us a chance to have an interesting chat with a couple of German guys from Hannover.
During our road trip around Portugal, we also enjoyed a couple of days touring around the Douro Valley. This is an incredible region to travel around the scenery is beautiful. Standing high above the Douro Valley looking down on the river, you get to appreciate the steep terraces of the vineyards.
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Inspired to visit Porto?
Explore the streets of Porto or while away some time enjoying a glass of Port by the Douro River. Porto has so much to offer.
For further information on things to see and do in Northern Portugal, take a browse around Visit Porto & The North local tourist website.
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