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Porto in the north of Portugal is the capital of port wines - and an excellent destination to immerse yourself in the exciting, contrasting facets of the entire Portuguese wine culture. Anke Sademann went on a voyage of discovery for us at Porto.

The steps of the Mercado Semanal do Bolhão are a popular meeting place.

Anke Sademann

Late autumn and early winter is a wonderful time for wine fans to immerse themselves in Portuguese wine culture at Porto. The still sunny, mild and clear days with temperatures around 17 °C can also be accompanied by cloudy and rainy days. They suit the city perfectly. When the autumn fog over the old town mixes with the melancholy sung about by Fado, the wines taste even more intense. In the high season, Porto is quite crowded and is in no way inferior to the capital Lisbon. But the Portuguese capital of wine culture is Porto.

There you can meet many passionate wine ambassadors beyond the traditional port wine habitus. On the Wine Flight through the harbour city, they can be found in their "garrafeiras" (wine shops), the "bar de vinhos" and restaurants, at weekly markets, but also in tasting lodges. The spectrum ranges from the association of small quintas (wineries) to a "wine world" of its own: Porto's cultural centre "WOW - World of Wine", built like a terraced vineyard, towers over the Vila Nova de Gaia district.

Celia Lino sells wines from 40 regions of Portugal at "Porto in a bottle".

Anke Sademann

We recommend starting your wine flight with a tour of Porto's modern version of a weekly market hall, which was only renovated in 2022: the Mercado Semanal do Bolhão is located not far from Porto's iconic Capela das Almas Santa Catarina church, whose corpus is covered in the typical blue and white tiles known as azulejos. A futuristic flight of steps leads visitors into a colourful labyrinth of stalls selling Portuguese treasures - food and non-food from land, river and sea. Anyone who is still waiting in line without a "copo de vinho" - Portuguese for a glass of wine - is immediately sent to the wine stand at the cheese or fish stall. "People just want it. They trust our wines," remarks Juan from Balåo Wine House Hugo Silva. There is a thirst - without many special requests - for vinho verde, tinto, bianco or "something sparkling". Four daily recommendations are available for tasting. The fresh wines from Vinho Verde and Minho are made from the white grape varieties Alvarinho, Avesso, Azal, Arinto, Loureiro or Trajadura. However, they are not just green and white, but also red, rosé and, above all, young. Right next to the Wine House, oysters are opened in chord, sea urchins are gutted and caviar is passed around with a dab for tasting in the charmingly neon-lit back room.

Then you stroll on past dried bacalhau or freshly caught cod and colourfully designed tins of sardines. The last sip is taken on the steps with a panoramic view. If you want to buy good wines, head to a "garrafeira". Celia Lino and Marco Ferreira opened their "Porto in a Bottle" wine shop in Rua das Flores a decade ago with pioneering flair in the oldest shop on the street. It only became a pedestrianised area in 2014 - with wine bars, restaurants and cafés. "My grandfather used to make wine for home consumption. Maybe that's how I discovered my love for simple Portuguese wines," says Celia. The shop stocks port wines up to 40 years old as well as wines from small producers from Douro, Minho and 40 other regions.

The Lado is run by 22 winegrowers from the Douro.

Anke Sademann

Many visitors to Porto are immediately drawn to the river. To the north lies Porto's Zona Ribeira. Opposite the warehouses in the Vila Nova de Gaia neighbourhood, the curved replicas of the old "Rabelos", the port wine boats, bob as if draped across the river. The 50 metre high arched steel bridge Ponte Luis connects both banks. Car-free at the top, city explorers can enjoy the sweeping view over the city's topography on foot or by tram. Excursion boats for the Douro cruise depart from the Ribeira area. Porto's oldest district still represents the old Portugal of fishermen and harbour workers. In the second, patinated rows of the neighbourhood, you can still clearly feel this time. There you will find contrasting, rugged places for special wine addresses such as "The Winebox", which is located on a car slip road. The location, designed like a wine box, stocks 450 wines - most of which come from little-known wineries that work to high standards.

The "Lado Unique and Private Port Wine Warehouse" stretches like a vaulted cellar from the Ribeira promenade to the alleyway behind it and is run by Avepod, an association of 22 Douro winegrowers. Characterised by its steep terraces and white wine quintas (wineries), the Douro Valley (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001) is still primarily known for its port wines. This is not due to a lack of commitment on the part of the winegrowers, but rather to the regulated production volume of port wines in relation to dry wines. Yet Porto is surrounded by five appellations: the DOP Vinho Verde, Minho, Dão and Bairrada as well as the 80 kilometre long Douro Valley. The world's oldest and first state-protected wine-growing region runs along the Douro River of the same name from the Spanish border to Porto and is further divided into Baixo, Cima-Corgo and Douro Superior, which borders Spain. Incidentally, port wine is made from the same grapes as the local red and white wines: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão. Examples include the powerful Meão Meandro Branco or the Vinha Maria de Castro.

Adrian Bridge is the founder and head of the World of Wine (WOW)

Anke Sademann

Wine lovers - beginners and experts alike - can experience the world of Portuguese wines in the new cultural district "WOW - World of Wine", which opened in 2020. The 55,000 square metre cultural district, built like a wine terrace, was constructed ten years after the opening of the accompanying five-star wine hotel "The Yeatman" on a long abandoned hill above Vila Nova de Gaia. The wine cosmos - which has already won several awards - has established itself as the new wine hotspot of the harbour city, and indeed of the whole of Europe. Visitors could spend days here: The WOW offers seven museums, twelve restaurants, bars and cafés, shops, a chocolate factory and extensive exhibition areas. In the Wine-Experience, the Cork Museum and the Pinkpalace, everything revolves around wine knowledge. In the WSET-certified wine school, wine is tasted and demystified at the same time.

The WOW co-operates with over 100 Portuguese wine houses. The "Winebook Bible", which also features individual restaurant concepts, contains 16,000 items with 90 per cent Portuguese wines. These include vintage wines and port wines matured in wooden barrels, which are otherwise rarely seen on wine lists. The mastermind, founder and head of WOW and the Yeatman Hotel is the Brit Adrian Bridge. The former investment banker and property specialist married into the Yeatman port wine family in the 1990s and initiated the expansion of the Vila Nova de Gaia district. His idea of introducing tourists to Portugal's wine culture in addition to port wine tastings has paid off. Together with Porto's wine ambassadors, his wine culture has long been on a par with port wine culture. And that on the global stage.

More on the subject:

The best discoveries in Porto

Mercado do Bolhão with Wine House Hugo Silva (next to the oyster bar)

Fernandes Porto rua Fernandes Tomas 9

The modern market hall is a grail of Portuguese diversity. Although the neoclassical market hall, built in 1838, now has a modern centre, it is worth strolling through with a good glass of vinho.

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The Winebox

Rua dos Mercadores 72

Young wine fans, sommeliers and pioneers will find their own stage in the wine bar, which is designed like a wine box in the third row behind the touristy riverside road in the Ribeira zone: 450 items - 98 per cent of which are from Portugal from small wineries - can be found on the menu. Authentic Porto cuisine with a modern twist is also served.

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Lado (Lagar d'ouro) AVEPOD (since 1923)

Rua Fonte Taurina 89, Porto

"Unique and private Port Wine Warehouse": When 22 small wine estates from the Douro come together to offer their wines in a 14th century wine cellar, every wine lover's heart will beat faster. Better book in advance for the tasting!

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Porto in a Bottle

Rua das Flores, 263

The aesthetically furnished, small wine shop in the historic via Flores (16th century) is a treasure trove of vintage port wines, Vinho du Douro, Vino Verde, Ginja (sour cherry liqueur) and Madeiras. Well-stocked online shop!

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Ferrobar Rapido

Rua da Madeira, 84, Porto, Portugal

With a view of Sao Bento railway station, this small hipster bar not only offers a good selection of wines and spirits on the menu, but also live concerts.

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Prova Wine Food & Pleasure

Rua Ferreira Borges 86

Sommelier Diogo Amado has 50 selected Portuguese labels on the menu. The wine is accompanied by jazz in a cosy wine world of taste, sound and culture with great hosts.

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Vinofino

R. das Flores 113, 4050-263

On the historic Rua da Flores, which has been open for ten years, you can not only enjoy a glass of well-chosen wine, but also watch the colourful hustle and bustle of locals and cheerful visitors to Porto.

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Vinoteca Copo & Alma

Rua de Mouzinho da Silveira 88

A wine library: In a synergy of wine bar and garrafeira, the selection of Niepoort wines is available In Focus. Warm jazz is served with small snacks and sweets to accompany the port wine.

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De Lima's Wine Bar

Rua Loureiro 69, Porto 4000-328 Portugal

The much-travelled Rafael Lima, who has already worked as a sommelier in international establishments, conveys the soul of Portuguese wines during his tastings.

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Sical

Praca Dona Filipa de Lencastre 2

Sical in the Victorio neighbourhood is the original shop of the iconic coffee brand. An insider tip: here you can enjoy Francesinah (Portuguese-French cult dish) with a view of a panoramic ceramic art wall from the 1950s. The wine list is also very tasty.

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Mind The Glass - Wine | Bistrot | Bar

Praça Gomes Teixeira 36

Stylish, very elegant wine bar with upscale Portuguese creative cuisine, an excellent selection and a view of Gomes Teixeira Square. 600 wines, spirits and beers.

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Porto Taste Food Tour

Motto: Taste the real Porto. The tours organised by Porto 's first gastro guide take you to real insider addresses. Anecdotes, architecture and culture are brought into the glass and onto the plate.

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WOW Porto - Word of Wine Experience

Rua do Choupelo, 39 V.N Gaia

In Porto's "new cultural district", visitors can experience 55,000 square metres of Portuguese wine culture with a WSET-certified wine school, masterclasses, tastings, cork, chocolate and art in restored port wine warehouses in the heart of the historic wine cellar district of Vila Nova de Gaia. A hotel, seven museums, twelve restaurants, bars and cafés as well as shops, event halls, exhibitions on cork and drinking vessels and a chocolate factory. A view of the old town and the Douro included.

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WOW The Wineschool

Rua do Choupelo, 39 V.N Gaia

For wine lovers and professionals, WOW Porto offers wine courses in English for all levels of interest and knowledge at its wine school. In addition to workshops and themed tastings, the wine school also offers exclusive tastings led by a senior wine educator.

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WOW The Wineexperience

Rua do Choupelo, 39 V.N Gaia

From the grape to the glass: the journey takes you through the winemaking process, tasting and the terroirs. All of Portugal's wine regions are stylised in an artificial village. During a wine tasting, you learn to smell, taste and describe wine. A three-dimensional experience even for old wine bunnies.

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