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A visit to Porto and the Port Houses/Lodges across the River Duero in Vila Nova de Gaia.

It is a pleasant walk across the famous Dom Luís I Bridge to get there.

We chose to visit


On arrival, we chose the €20 tour, which everyone seemed to have. This includes three port tastings at the end of the tour. There are more expensive tours, up to €65 which include a vintage port tasting and a cheeseboard to complement the wine.

Our excellent tour guide, who's name I have unfortunately lost, took us through the 90-minute tour explaining the history of Cockburn's as we went around the vast lodge.

He explained.

Cockburn's have always questioned the so-called ‘rules’ for making port. Back in 1815, Robert and John Cockburn, two brothers from Scotland, bypassed the stuffy merchant’s fair in Porto and bought the very best grapes directly from farmers upriver in the Douro.

Ever since, they have done things their own way, declaring vintage years whenever they feel it is right, regardless of what rival port houses might think. In 1969, they launched Special Reserve, bridging the gap between rarefied vintage years and ruby port. A big part of this was the decision to use a good proportion of Touriga Nacional, a low-yielding grape that everyone else had pretty much abandoned. To meet demand, John Henry Smithes, also known as the Cowboy of the Douro, planted large areas of Touriga Nacional, the quintessential port grape, in the upper Douro. This was a region once considered out of bounds for respectable producers, and which became known as Cockburn’s Country.

At Cockburn’s Lodge in the centre of historic Vila Nova de Gaia, which is the other side of the river to Porto itself, they still age their ports in oak vats made by some of the last in-house coopers in the region. The vines that supply Cockburn’s are grown up and down the beautiful Douro Valley, the world’s oldest demarcated wine region and a UNESCO-protected landscape, especially at Quinta dos Canais, their home in the region.

The wine barrels stopped being transported from the vineyards to Porto by the river in 1964 and now arrive by road. Seen in this video are the famous Barco boats, which are now mainly for tourist trips.

There, the schist soil, Douro micro-climate, south-facing terraces, and the application of age-old experience, produce intensely sweet grapes. They are also using the latest satellite technology to ensure grapes are harvested when perfectly ripe and advanced automated methods to ensure they are crushed delicately at the perfect temperature. This focus on the future has led to Cockburn’s gaining B Corporation certification, which means the business is internationally recognised as having the highest environmental and social standards. A pretty big deal in the Port world.

We were shown some vintage ports. All vintage port has two years in the barrel and then spends the rest of their time in the bottle, which is why it always needs to be decanted.

Then, we were shown some very old vintage ports.

At the end of the tour, we settled down to enjoy the three ports provided.

The three ports in our tasting were,


Late Bottled Vintage

10 Year-Old Tawny

The 10-year-old Tawny was excellent.

Cockburn's Ports include,

White Ruby

Late Bottled Vintage

10 Year-Old Tawny

20 Year-Old Tawny

Vintage Port Vintage port is a wine made from a single, exceptional year that spends no longer than two years in barrel before being bottled. This is why it needs decanting, to remove the natural sediment deposited by the wine and to allow the aromas developed during aging to express themselves).

All in all, it was a very interesting tour and well worth the money. The only problem is the walk-up to the lodge. It is on quite a long, steep road and probably not for anyone with reduced mobility unless they are able to get a taxi there and back.

Chestnut sellers on the quayside.

COCKBURN'S PORT LODGE R. de Serpa Pinto 346, 4400-307 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

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The reviews here are personal recommendations of places we have actually been to.

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