You would think that after a handful of trips to Taylor’s Port Cellars between my first visit to Portugal in 2011 and moving here in late 2013, I would have experienced their cellars tour by now. But only last month did I actually do it! How can this be??
For one thing, Taylor’s has a large property which includes a fine dining restaurant, a patio with one of the best views of Porto to be found, a garden, a lawn for outdoor performances, and a reception space where one end is devoted to the port house’s history — a mini-museum, of sorts. This makes it more of a multi-purpose venue than just a port wine storage facility.
In 2011, I passed through Taylor’s on the way to Croft Port, which is now owned by Taylor’s, and did the Croft tour. (There I was introduced to pink port, which they pioneered and remains my favourite of all the port wines so far, which explains my bias for the Croft tour!) Then, a year ago I brought my friend visiting from Luxembourg back to Croft for the tour so she could compare the pink port with the others. Meanwhile, I was at Taylor’s again for a concert in the garden for Cais de Fado in the summer, and shot some pictures of the view of Porto from the restaurant patio while waiting for the performance to begin. I’ve brought visitors back to Taylor’s since then for the views, but last month while on a leisurely stroll through the upper part of Gaia I decided to play tourist and finally check the Taylor’s tour off the list, to at least say I’ve done it and give a comparison.
It’s winter, but Taylor’s is one of the bigger port houses and they still run tours every day. For English speakers it’s easy enough just to show up; there’s usually a tour every 20 minutes or so in high season (if not more) and at least one an hour in the low season. I asked if it was possible to take the tour without the port samples (hello, isn’t that the best part?!?), and I was informed that the €5 charge is more of an entry fee than a package consisting of tour and samples. I see. Brace yourselves: if you like port as a digestive, have lunch first.
I piggybacked onto a cellar tour with a small group of young Chinese tourists, and we were taken around by a guide who I’m guessing is Dutch or Belgian. Everything is a guess since she didn’t introduce herself to us, and she didn’t ask us where we were from. I’m only pointing it out because this is the first time I haven’t been asked where I’m from, and it’s the one time I wanted to be stealthy and blend in!
By the way, while you are waiting for your tour to begin, don’t miss the large framed illustrations on the far wall by the entrance to the garden. They explain each stage of the wine-making process, from grape-growing to bottling (if my memory serves me correctly — I’ll check next time I’m there). If you don’t have time to browse the illustrations before the tour, view them slowly while sipping the three glasses of port afterwards. Soon you’ll want to sink into one of the lounge chairs for a nap as your brain tries to absorb all that information while the port takes hold.
A few bullet points about the Taylor’s cellar tour:
- Length: the tour was longer than Croft’s, it ran at least 20 minutes;
- Breadth: it was incredibly informative — I’ve been on two cellar tours already, and I learned quite a bit more this time;
- Taylor’s is generous with their port samples, and they offer three (see below). If you drink them all, don’t drive anything, not even a stroller!
- If you plan to photograph in the cellars, bring your fastest lens because it’s you’ll need it. I shot these at ISO 1600 because I was silly and didn’t bring my FX camera.
Verdict: I enjoyed all of the port wines at the end of the tour, but my favourite is still Croft Pink. But if I were to rank Taylor’s, this would be my order of preference, starting from top to bottom:
Rua do Choupelo nº 250
4400-088 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
GPS Coordinates: 41.13394, -8.61435
Tel: +351 223 772 956 / +351 223 742 800
HOURS (check the website for updates):
Monday-Friday: 10am to 6pm
Saturday-Sunday: 10am to 5pm
(Please note that last tour leaves about an hour before closing time so as to allow sufficient time to complete your tasting.)
January 10, 2015
Album: Portugal [Winter 2014/2015]