There are lots of Port wine tasting tours to chose from in Porto. All the warehouses are on the south bank of the River Douro. I chose to go to Taylors Port because I wanted to visit the factory that produces port that is readily available in most supermarkets at home.
Taylors wine estate is at the top of the hill at 250 Rua do Choupelo. It is a very steep climb and can be exhausting on a hot Portuguse summers day. When you get to the top you will not only be out of breath but you sticky and sweaty. Take an air conditioned cab ride. It is not expensive. The driver cannot drive straight up the hill as many are pedestrian only or one way. They will driver around the outside of the port wine production area to the top of the hill and then come back down to drop you at the Taylors Port wine facility entrance.
Taylors is open Monday to Friday 10am - 6pm and closes an hour later on Saturday and Sunday when they are open from 10am to 5pm. There is no fixed schedule to the tours. They start when there are enough people approximately every 30-40 minutes. There are plenty of comfortable seats to sit on whilst waiting for your tour to start in the elegant Library room and the attractive English rose garden that over looks the Douro river and the north bank of the city. Take you camera with a wide angled lens so you can capture the panoramic view.
Taylors charges a small entrance fee. At the end of the port wine warehouse tour you will be given three glasses of different port to try. Normally this is a chip dry white port and then a 10 year old Tawny port followed by a Late Bottled Vintage port (LBV). You can then order other types of port to taste at an additional cost. It is a great way to find out which type of Port you prefer. My wife liked the lighter smoky Tawny where as I preferred the richer darker fruiter Ruby Port.
You are shown the different sized barrels and vats in the Taylors warehouse. The larger the vat the less exposure to wood and outside oxygen the port receives. This makes the different qualities of each type of port wine. Ports like the Tawny are stored in small barrels and exposed to more oxygen than those in the very big barrels. This means that once the bottle is open it will last for around two months unlike the Late Bottled Vintage ports that should be drunk as soon as it is opened because they have not been exposed to much oxygen in the larger vats.
The guide also shows you a map of the Taylors vineyard estates which are down river to the west of Porto near the Spanish border. They have three vineyards Quinta de Vargellas, Quinta de Terra Feita and Quinta do Junco. When the tour is finished you are taken back to the library room where you are given your port samples to taste.
Taylors began in 1692 when Englishman Job Bearsley, the owner of the Ram Inn in London's Smithfield, arrived in Portugal to buy and trade in red wine from the Minho River valley. He was followed by his son Peter who went on to explore the upper reaches of the Douro valley and correctly deduced that the valley slopes would produce a better fuller wine than those of the Minho River. He started buying the grape harvest and wine of the local farmers. Soon British merchants became a familiar sight in the valley as news of the good wine produced from this area started to spread.
It was Peter's son Bartholomew Bearsley who in 1744 became the first British Wine Merchant to buy land in the Douro Valley and start growing their own vines. He also built a good relationship with the local farmers and obtains first pick of their wines.
After the Napoleonic occupation of Porto ended the London office manager Joseph Taylor arrived in Porto and returned the company to profit and a promising future. He was made a partner and eventually sole owner of the Port producing company. He had a London wine importation business Joseph Taylor Port and Brandy Merchants and eventually the two companies were merged under his London Company name.