I couldn’t very well go to Porto without visiting one of the many port houses that dot the hillside of neighbouring Vila Nova de Gaia, which is how we found ourselves late one afternoon touring the cellars at Taylor’s, one of the oldest port merchants in the region.
Taylor’s dates back to 1692 when an English wine merchant named Job Bearsley and his family moved to northern Portugal, and it was there that his son Peter discovered the delights of the port wines of the Douro Valley.
More than 130 years later, Joseph Taylor, a manager in the firm’s London office, acquired the company and an enduring brand was born.
Our self-guided audio tour of the cellars began with a geographic overview of the Douro Valley, before taking us inside the cask room – a cavernous space housing row upon row of oak caskets filled with port.
The room was cool and damp, and had a musty, woody and faintly port-like aroma. As we walked around, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer number of caskets, as well as the enormity of the gigantic vat of port at the far end of the room (below).
From the cask room, we walked up to a small room overlooking it that featured an exhibition explaining how grapes are grown and port is made.
As we continued our tour through the port house’s museum, we learned about coopers (the traditional name for people who make barrels), different types of port, vintage and special varieties, and decanting.
We also learned about the Bearsley, Taylor, Fladgate and Yeatman families who have, at various stages, owned the company.
Our tour ended in the tasting room, where we were given small portions of the chip dry white and a late-bottled vintage red to try. The port was good and we enjoyed it so much, we decided to stay for another glass before we called it a night.
I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Taylor’s. The museum was well-designed and curated with lots to see, and the self-guided tour was fantastic – fascinating and informative.
If anything there was almost too much information and I came away feeling like a newly-minted expert in port. Highly recommended if you’re looking to visit a port house in the region.
Taylor’s, Rua do Choupelo, no 250, 4400-88 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Open 11am-6pm, seven days a week
€15 adults, €6 children (aged eight to 17), free for children under eight