Set on Vila Nova de Gaia's hillside above the River Douro, Taylor's is one of a small number of lodges offering free tours and tastings of Porto's most famous tipple (most charge around €3). It's the only one to offer a glass of Late Bottled Vintage to its visitors, and its also the only lodge to boast its own peacocks.
Tours typically begin with a history of the company, before moving on to an overview of the port production process and a description of the various styles available. Made from grapes grown in the demarcated Douro region, port is fortified with a flavourless 77% spirit called aguardente before being transported to Gaia to age in gigantic wooden barrels. Some styles are quickly transferred to bottles, while others must mature for longer.
Before visiting Porto, I had filed port under 'sticky horrible drink served on stuffy formal occasions'. Completely ignorant about the different types of port, I was surprised to learn that light, refreshing white ports are served chilled as an aperitif, while heavier rubies and tawnies are reserved for post-prandial sipping. Most lodges offer a taste of a white port and a ruby or tawny, with extra tastings and appropriate nibbles at an additional cost.
Just one taste of a white port made me reconsider my categorization: not just a tipple for crusty academics and the elderly, port actually tastes good. Nowadays, there's even a pink port: this stuff is positively trendy. The Late Bottled Vintage offered by Taylor's is a much richer number: it's a vintage port (the star of the port family, produced entirely from grapes harvested in a declared 'vintage' year) allowed to age in the barrel for longer than its older brother. It has a vintage taste without the hassle: vintage is an awkward customer which needs to hang around inside a bottle for years reaching maturity. Ready for drinking straight after purchase, LBV is perfect for the impatient. Perhaps that's why I liked it so much.
You may also be interested in reading the article on budget breaks in Porto I wrote for The Travel Belles.
Photos of peacocks/peahens & port drinking copyright Rachael Schofield.