Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

Douro River and Port

November 14, 2017

The Douro River empties into the sea at Porto, it is around 900kms in length originating in Spain with the navigable part of the river mainly in Portugal. To give you some semblance of comparison, Porto sits at a similar latitude as Nelson in NZ so the temperatures for this time of the year (autumn) is very comfortable with daytime temperatures between 18-20C.

After spending a day gaining our bearings and scoping out the town we put aside a day or two to explore the river area.

view of the river from one of the many bridges crossing the Duoro.

We took a ride on the river in one of the traditional Rabelo boats, Portuguese wooden cargo boats. These boats are unique to Portugal with its history closely linked to the production and transportation of Port wine. The name Rabelo means “little tail” on account of the long timber rudder at the stern of the boat.

a traditional rabelo with the historic district in the background.

Our trip along the river took us downstream under some of the six bridges that cross the river linking Porto with Gaia on the north bank. The Luís I Bridge was designed by none other than Gustav Eiffel and is a double-deck single arch bridge constructed between 1881 and 1886 with rail running across the top of the bridge and road and pedestrian traffic on the lower level. At the time it was the longest metal arch bridge in the world.

view of the bridge from the water

interesting bricked river bank

Another bridge just 1km from the Luís Bridge is a very similar looking bridge called the Maria Pia Bridge. The arched bridge is a railway bridge and also attributed to Gustav Eiffel and was built in 1877.

the Maria Pia Bridge with the new Infante D. Henrique Bridge in the background. The Infante bridge was, until 2003, the longest single span concrete bridge in the world.

The river journey starts and ends in the famous Ribeiro area of Porto with its UNESCO Heritage site colourful buildings.


laundry hanging out along the building frontages.

a selection of views.

Church along the route, built in 1391

further downstream, new apartments built in keeping with the historic area

The historic walls of the city could easily be viewed from the water

At the end of the tour we enjoyed lunch in one of the cafes lining the Ribeira,

After lunch we took the water taxi across the river to Gaia as this is where the Port Caves and tastings take place. And you thought that the Port in the title alluded to a sea Port? No, it’s the Port wine that you drink!!

looking from Gaia across to Ribeira

The port company flags lining the riverbank

boats loaded with casks

We had a tour of the Calem Port cellars and their museum, which is a very informative tour as well as innovative in its techniques for displaying material as well as being interactive. We were told about all the differences between types of port i.e. Ruby, Tawny, White and Rosè as well as the differences between vintage, reserve, late bottled vintage, colheita etc and then the 10, 20 and 30 year old vintages.

The following small cask of vintage port took my eye, being a very good year I thought!!!

We enjoyed our tasting as we sat at a large table with a veritable United Nations of people (NB. all of these people were on the English language tour) from Italy, Sweden, England, Germany, Netherlands and of course us Kiwis. After the tastings got underway, everyone relaxed a little and as the port flowed, so did the conversation.

happy tasters!