A Beginner’s Guide to Trying Port in Portugal

Food and Drink, On the Go

As you may know, the reason we picked our honeymoon destination, Portugal, is because we watch a show called Booze Traveler, which featured a segment on the beautiful vineyards of the Douro Valley.

Basically, we went to Portugal to drink wine.

Of course, just about nothing is more quintessentially Portuguese than port wine. But if you start sipping port as soon as your plane lands, you might end up being completely turned off.

With a quick understanding of just a couple aspects of port wine, and the knowledge of where to go to drink it, you’ll be sipping port like a pro in no time.

A Beginner's Guide to Trying Port In Portugal

Step 1: Stop Thinking of It As Wine

When you first try port, you’re thinking that it’s basically wine, right? It’s pretty logical, since port wine is, of course, wine.

While, yes, port wine is wine, if you start sipping it with the mindset that it’s wine, you’re about to be sorely disappointed.

Port’s sweetness and syrupy texture are going to throw you off at first.

Remember that port is a dessert wine (which is why you’re probably drinking it after your meal). Instead of thinking of wine, think of something sweet, like a syrup you might put on your ice cream.

(Maybe I’m crazy but I actually think port on ice cream sounds awesome—is this a thing??)

It’s simple, but this mindset shift is necessary to appreciate port on its own, without comparing it to table wine.

Step 2: Know the Difference Between Tawny and Ruby

There are two kinds of port: tawny port and ruby port. You’ll want to understand the difference before you start sipping.

The difference in the wines is how long they have been aged in the casks.

Ruby wines are younger, having spent less time aging. As a result, it has more of its natural ruby red color, and it is also sweeter and fruitier. If you generally like sweeter wine or cocktails, you might like ruby port better.

Tawny port, on the other hand, has aged longer, sometimes up to 20 years—or even more. As it ages, the port becomes more of a brown, tawny color. It also is less sweet, with deeper oak flavor and more complexity. If you’re a whiskey drinker (like me!), you will probably love Tawny port.

Step 3: Try Port in Portugal

Headed to Portugal and looking to try some killer port?

You’ll be able to order port in every restaurant or bar you go to in Portugal.

Don’t be like me, slightly tipsy, who walked into a bar and asked if they had port. Duh. Of course they do.

If you really want to be able to try port, and foster an understanding of what you like and what you don’t, there are a couple of places worth sitting for a tasting:

The Porto Wine Caves

The first is the wine caves of Porto.

Trying Port in Portugal_Porto Wine Caves

While caves full of wine might sound cool, they are actually cellars, not caves (cave is the word for cellar in Portuguese). They’re still super interesting, though, and you can tour and taste at any number of them, just across the river from Porto in Gaia.

We tried the tour & tasting at Croft and would recommend it, but you can do your own research or just wander around and find a bunch of great spots worth checking out.

The Douro River

Porto is where port wine got its name, because that is where it is all shipped from. If you really want to experience the origin of port wine, though, you’ll need to head down the Douro River, which you can do via train, boat, or taxi.

This is where you’ll find the most beautiful tasting locale, with vines running up and down the hills of the Douro Valley. Similarly to Porto, you can choose from any number of wine houses to enjoy a tour and learn more about port wine.

Appreciate Port in Portugal

With these few easy tips, you’ll be ready for the best possible port tasting experience, so pack your bags, head to Portugal and enjoy!



P.S. Have you tried port? Let me know in the comments what you thought of it!

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