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Porto’s Wine, Cuisine and Culture

by Barbara Radcliffe Rogers

Aug 1, 2019

© OLEZZO – DREAMSTIME.COM

August 2019

PORTO IS ALL ABOUT WINE. Wine literally flows from the steep vineyard-clad hillsides into the Douro River and on to Porto, where it ages in casks and is shipped throughout the world. Port wine takes its name from the city and shaped Porto’s social, cultural and economic history.

Visiting the great wine houses is the thing to do here, and with planning you can fit a tour and tasting into an after-5 schedule. Wine houses, easy to find, line the riverbank and ascend the steep hillside of Vila Nova de Gaia, across the Douro River from the even-steeper streets of Ribeira, the old town. The dramatic Ponte Luis I Bridge connects the two.

Several wine houses remain open until 7 p.m., and tours usually take about an hour, followed by tastings. Some offer tastings without the tour; reserve ahead through their websites for either option.

Kopke, the oldest, offers tastings only, pairing wine flights with chocolates. Cockburn’s stays open until 6 or 7 p.m., as does Taylor’s, where tours are self-guided. Taylor’s offers another option: a wine dinner overlooking the Douro. ODE Porto Wine House serves beautifully presented Portuguese dishes using organic, locally produced ingredients.

For a taste of Portuguese culture with your Port, take a tour at Calem with a 6 p.m. tasting and half-hour performance of traditional fado, Portugal’s unique, soulful music. For a longer fado show with dinner, locals choose Casa da Mariquinhas, where performances begin at 9 p.m.

Porto’s Michelin stars fell on Gastronomic Restaurant at The Yeatman, where connoisseurs opt for the chef ’s tasting menu with wine pairings. The outdoor bar and terrace provide some of Porto’s best views. Also find a stunning view at the Lounge Terrace 360º Bar, part of the chic Restaurante DeCastro Gaia. A younger, hip crowd prefers Restaurante Cafeína, where Portuguese dishes include Italian and French influences.

The liveliest nightlife centers in the crowded streets around Galaria de Paris, with Porto’s highest concentration of bars, cafés and lounges. For live jazz, seek out Mirajazz Wine Bar. Exclusively LGBTQ+ venues are few — Portugal is famously inclusive — but Café Lusitano and newer gay-owned Conceição 35 cater to a mixed crowd, and Invictus Café Bar features live drag shows on weekends.

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