Julie Portugal 2 Comments

One of the best things to do in Porto is to taste port wine. Located across the Douro River from Porto, in an area called Vila Nova de Gaia (or simply Gaia), sit the wine cellars where port wine is stored and aged. In this guide, we list the best wine cellars in Porto to visit, things to do in Gaia, plus recommendations on where to eat and where to get a spectacular view of Porto.

What is Vila Nova de Gaia?

The Douro River runs through the Porto Metropolitan Area.

On the north side of the river sits Porto. This is where you will find most of the churches, cathedrals, and museums in the city, as well as many of the hotels and restaurants as well as the train station.

Vila Nova de Gaia, or simply Gaia, sits south of the Douro River. Gaia is home to the wine cellars where the port wine is stored and aged. If you are visiting Porto with the main reason of sampling the port wine, you’ll spend most of your time in Gaia.

Vila Nova de Gaia Promenade | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

The riverfront promenade in Vila Nova de Gaia

What is Port Wine?

Port wine is a fortified wine that is produced in Portugal. The grapes must be grown in the Upper Douro region. Red port wine is a blend of several grape varieties, the most common being Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Cão.

The grapes are harvested in mid-September, usually crushed by foot, and fermented in large vats. A neutral spirit of 77% alcohol is added to the wine to stop the fermentation process, thus fortifying the wine. This raises the alcohol content but also helps the wine retain some of its sweetness, since some of the sugar remains. The wine is then aged in casks or barrels in Vila Nova de Gaia.

There are several types of port wine.

Tawny Port

Tawny port is aged in barrels with exposure to the air. This oxidative process gives them more complexity (with notes of caramel, vanilla, and toasted nuts) and a reddish-brown appearance. Tawny ports are aged in barrels for at least six years.

Tawny ports are usually sold as 10, 20, 30, and 40-year-old port. The age listed is the average age of port in the bottle. For example, a 30-year-old tawny port can contain small amounts of 80-year port, along with port from more recent years, to hit the age profile.

A Colheita port is a single vintage tawny port with grapes all grown in the same year. It is aged for at least 7 years and the age of the vintage year is listed on the bottle.

Ruby Port

Ruby ports are aged in large barrels or stainless-steel tanks and are not exposed to oxygen. Without the oxidative process, ruby ports are fruitier and red in color. There are several different varieties of ruby port.

Vintage Port

Vintage port is only produced during certain years, when the grapes are exceptional. This typically happens only once every four to five years.

Vintage port is aged two years in a barrel and then is transferred into bottles, where the aging process continues. It’s best to allow vintage ports to age for at least 10 to 15 years, but the longer you keep it, the better it will be. If you have patience, purchasing a young vintage port can pay off, being truly spectacular in 10, 20, or 30 years.

Once you open a bottle, it’s best to drink a vintage port within 1 to 2 days, since the oxidation changes its taste.

Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBVs)

These ports are produced every year and are cheaper than vintage port. They come from a single vintage but aren’t made from exceptional grapes. LBVs are aged in barrels for four to six years and then bottled. They are ready to drink as soon as they are sold and will not continue to age in the bottle.

Reserve Port

A reserve port is a blend of good grapes that spend four to six years in a barrel before being bottled. They are cheaper than LBVs and ready to drink right away. Examples of reserve ports are Fonseca’s Bin 27, Sandeman’s Founder’s Reserve, and Graham’s Six Grapes.

Crusted

Crusted ports are a blend of several good vintage ports. They are aged two years in barrels and three years in bottles. They aren’t as expensive as a vintage port.

White Port

White port is made from white grapes and gets its name for its white color, similar to white wine. It is typically served as an aperitif or mixed with tonic water and lime, called a Porto Tonic.

Niepoort Sign

Best Wine Cellars in Porto

Visiting the port wine cellars in Gaia is one of the best things to do while in Porto. Layered along the hillsides of Gaia are the massive port wine cellars, where the port is stored and aged, as time and the oak barrels work their magic.

There is a long list of wine cellars to visit. Some names you may know, others, maybe not. The most popular and touristy of the wine cellars include Taylor’s, Sandeman, Graham’s, and Cálem. Our favorite experience was at Niepoort, which I’ll get into soon.

To visit the wine cellars, you will need to make a reservation in advance. Wine cellars offer guided tours and tastings, and these can take 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the cellar and the experience you choose to do. If you want to spend one day in Gaia, you can visit three wine cellars, breaking up the day with lunch.

Niepoort Wine Cellar

If you can only do one tour and tasting in Porto, this is the one we recommend. This was our favorite experience in Porto.

Niepoort doesn’t come up on a lot of lists. It is a small, family run cellar that caters to very small groups, so it’s much less touristy than cellars such as Sandeman, Cálem, and Taylor’s. But that is part of its charm. And their wine is amazing!

Prior to our visit to Porto, Tim and I tried Niepoort tawny port a few times and loved it. Once in Porto, the concierge at our hotel highly recommended a visit to the Niepoort wine cellar. Needless to say, we had high expectations.

Niepoort Wine Cellar is located on a narrow street (Rua de Serpa Pinto) in the hills of Gaia. It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but once inside, you will get to see one of the oldest and most interesting wine cellars in Porto.

Inside of the 100-year-old cellar, there are over 1,000 barrels of port. They don’t touch anything in their cellar and they joke that the cobwebs are just as old. There are literally cobwebs on top of cobwebs.

Niepoort Wine Barrels | Wine Cellars in Porto

Niepoort Wine Cellar Barrels | Wine Cellars in Porto

Niepoort Porto | Wine Cellars in Porto

Niepoort Port Wine Tasting Porto | Wine Cellars in Porto

Tasting room at Niepoort | Wine Cellars in Porto

During our tour, it was just me, Tim and one other couple, and the sommelier. We were led on a quick tour of the wine cellar, getting to see their private collection. On sale are 13 bottles of port from 1863 which go for 140,000 euros each. So, the question is, will there still be 13 bottles for sale on your visit?

Most of our time was spent on the tasting. We tasted everything from tea to white and red wine to ruby and tawny port. Tim and I have been port drinkers long before visiting Portugal and Niepoort is now one of our favorites. They ship internationally, so if you want to purchase more than a bottle or two, you can ship home what you like.

Niepoort Shop

The wine shop in the Niepoort wine cellar | Wine Cellars in Porto

Niepoort offers several different tours. They only cater to small groups, so you won’t be herded through the cellar on a large group tour.

We took the Niepoort & Friends Tour, a tasting of 8 wines in 1.5 hours. Tim and I were tempted to take the Masterclass Tasting, but it’s the longest and most expensive tasting they offer, and we wanted to have more time for other wine cellars (and we didn’t want to get hammered tasting 16 wines). But if we return to Porto someday, I’d be tempted…

So, if you want a small group experience and taste some of Portugal’s best port wine, make a reservation in advance for Niepoort.

Taylor’s Port

Taylor Fladgate is one of the largest port wine producers in Portugal. They export huge quantities of wine internationally and have a wide variety of port available in many wine stores in the USA.

Taylor’s is located in the World of Wine (WOW), a short uphill walk from the Douro River waterfront.

You can tour the wine cellar with their audio guide tour. Their website states no reservation is necessary and they charge just a small fee, making this one of the easiest wine cellars in Gaia to visit. You can also add on a tasting or book a private tour.

We did not take a tour of Taylor’s, instead choosing to do a tasting at their tasting room.

Taylor Fladgate Terrace | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

Outdoor terrace at Taylor’s

At the tasting room, you can choose between indoor and outdoor seating. If the weather is nice, sitting outside in the garden is the best experience. With your tasting, you can order tapas (we had chocolate truffles and crackers with pumpkin jam…delicious!). And if you want to do a high-end tasting, try their 50-year tawny or even their 80 year old tawny (called their very very old tawny).

We were able to walk in and do tasting without an advance reservation (our visit was in September).

Taylor Fladgate Port Tasting | Wine Cellars in Porto

Port wine tasting at Taylor’s

 

Tapas at Taylors | Wine Cellars in Porto

Tapas at Taylor’s

Graham’s Port Lodge

Graham’s is another big name in port wine. At Graham’s Port Lodge, you can take your pick between two experiences: tour the 1890 Lodge or dine at Vinum Restaurant.

Vinum Restaurant Porto | Wine Cellars in Porto

Vinum Restaurant

 

Where to Eat in Porto | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

We opted for lunch at Vinum Restaurant. This restaurant has an outdoor terrace with a panoramic view of Gaia, the Douro River, and Porto. The food is wonderful and we tried a few wines and tawny ports with lunch. Make a reservation in advance because this is one of the top restaurants in Gaia.

At the 1890 Lodge, you can take a guided tour and tasting. Experiences range from quick tours and tastings in the main tasting room to private tours and tastings in the Boardroom. See the official website for your options.

Sandeman

Sandeman is yet another huge name in port wine. For over 200 years, Sandeman has been aging port wine in cellars in Gaia.

The entrance into Sandeman is right on the riverfront in Gaia, making it very easy to visit. They offer a wide variety of tours and tastings, from short, larger group tours with a tasting to exclusive experiences.

Sandeman Porto | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

We took the Sandeman 1790 tour, one of the cheaper options. On this 1.5-hour tour, we were guided through the wine cellar in a small group and then tasted five port wines in the 1790 room. They also offer a 50-minute tour, a wine and chocolate experience, and an exclusive 2.5-hour tour that ends with a tasting of four port wines. See the full list here.

Sandeman Barrels | Wine Cellars in Porto

Sandeman Wine Tasting | Wine Cellars in Porto

We enjoyed the tour and tasting at Sandeman but it didn’t come close to our experience at Niepoort. However, it’s easy to walk to and easy to get a tour reservation, since they offer tours frequently throughout the day.

If you want to skip the tour, Sandeman has an open terrace right on the riverfront. You can order a drink at the bar and enjoy the view across the Douro River to Porto.

Fonseca

Fonseca has been producing port since 1840. In 1948, they were acquired by Taylor’s but still produce wine under the name Fonseca.

Fonseca Port Tasting

Fonseca offers tours of its wine cellar in Gaia, followed by a tasting. We opted just to do a tasting in their tasting room, which we were able to do without an advance reservation. They specialize in ruby port more than tawny port and Bin 27 is their most popular port.

Learn more about Fonseca on their website.

More Wine Cellars in Porto

We could only visit so many wine cellars with the time we had. However, here are a few more recommended wine cellars that either came up in our research or we are just big fans of their port.

Caves Cálem

This is another touristy wine cellar in Porto. It is located down by the waterfront in Gaia, offers tours frequently throughout the day, and caters to larger groups of people. Learn more on their website.

Kopke

Kopke is one of our favorite port producers in Portugal. The Kopke Wine House is one of the oldest port wine houses in Gaia, dating back to 1638. It sits on the riverfront near Caves Cálem. They are open for tastings.

More Recommended Wine Cellars

Churchill’s is a wine cellar that gets great reviews. Caves Ferreira is another popular name in port wine and they are a popular pick for visitors to Porto. Cockburn’s is located next to Niepoort and they get wonderful reviews. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit Cockburn’s but again, we are fans of their port. We also really like Burmester and Barros port, and they also have wine cellars you can visit in Gaia.

Which Wine Cellars Should You Visit?

Niepoort is our favorite wine cellar in Gaia. To see the massive oak barrels, taste a variety of wine and port wine, all on a semi-private tour with a very knowledgeable sommelier, was an unforgettable experience. You really feel like you are stepping back in time on a visit here and no other tour or tasting we did in Porto (and even the Douro Valley) came close to this.

If you aren’t really all that into port but are interested in taking a tour to learn a little more about it, I recommend the Sandeman 1790 tour. On this 1.5-hour tour, you get to see the wine cellar and taste several different ports. Again, we learned a lot. Sandeman is located by the waterfront, run tours frequently throughout the day, so it’s easy to work into your schedule.

If you just want to do a tasting, Taylor’s, with their gardenlike setting is a good option. I think Kopke would also be a great option, as their port is amazing and you can taste port in one of the oldest wine houses in Porto.

If you simply want a drink, visit Churchill’s 1982 Garden Bar, the bar and patio at Sandeman’s, or have a drink at the Wine Book at the Yeatman Hotel.

Portugal Travel Guide

Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

In addition to the wine cellars, you can also visit the World of Wine (WOW) and enjoy the views across the river to Porto.

The World of Wine (WOW)

WOW is a cultural district in Gaia. It’s relatively new, is home to several museums, restaurants, shops, and wine cellars, and with so much to do, you could easily spend a full day here. Visiting a museum may not be high on your to do list in Gaia, but they have several unique museums which might interest you (and your kids, if you are traveling as a family).

Here is a list of things to do in WOW.

Museums at the World of Wine

There are six museums at the WOW. You can purchase a ticket to visit just one museum or purchase a “pack of tickets” that gets you into up to five museums. We did three museums, which is a lot, a bit too much in my opinion. For most people, one or two should be sufficient, unless you want to spend the entire day at WOW.

These museums are very well done. They are informative, interactive, and educational. It takes 30 to 45 minutes to tour a museum, a little less time if you move quickly.

Wine Experience. This museum covers how wine is made, takes you through Portugal’s wine regions, and has several interactive exhibits about which wine is right for you. It ends with a wine tasting. Tim and I really liked this museum and it’s our #1 recommendation at WOW.

World of Wine Porto | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

The Wine Experience at WOW

The Chocolate Story. Learn about the origins of chocolate and its production around the world. If you are here with kids, this is a great pick.

Pink Palace. Learn about rose wine and your visit ends with a rose wine tasting. We did not tour this museum.

Porto Across the Ages. This museum educates visitors about the history of Porto. We did not tour this museum.

Planet Cork. Learn about the production of cork and its potential uses in the modern world in this very educational museum. Again, it’s a good pick for kids and we learned a lot here.

The Bridge Collection. This museum covers the evolution of humanity through drinking vessels. We did not tour this museum.

More Things to Do at WOW

At WOW, you can also attend wine school, which has classes on Portuguese wine and how to properly taste wine. There are also workshops on pairing wine and chocolate and how to make cake pops (called Chocolatinhos, this experience is geared for kids).

There are also several restaurants and bars. The Angel’s Share wine bar has views over WOW and out to Porto and looks to be a great place to enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine in a classy setting.

Angels Share Wine Bar Porto | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

Angel’s Share wine bar

 

Terrace at the World of Wine Porto | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

Outdoor terrace at WOW

Taylor’s and Fonseca both have tasting rooms at WOW.

And don’t miss the Azuléjos Stairs, a staircase decorated with colorful tiles.

Azulejos Stairs WOW | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

For the full list of things to do, hours, pricing, and to purchase your tickets in advance, visit the official website. You can also purchase your museum tickets onsite at the visitor center which is next to the Chocolate Museum.

Sogevinus Wine Shop

If you want to purchase high quality port and ship it home, visit Sogevinus Wine Shop. We ordered port from here, shipped it to the USA, and had an all-around great experience.

For sale are wines from Kopke, Burmester, Cálem, and Barros. They offer tastings, wine by the glass, and food and wine pairings.

They have two locations, in Cais de Gaia and Santa Marinha (we visited the Santa Marinha shop, which is located near WOW). For more information on what they offer, visit the official website.

Stroll along the Douro River

One of the best things to do in Gaia is to stroll along the promenade along the Douro River. The views to Porto are spectacular. Plus, this promenade is lined with wine houses, where you can stop in for a tasting, a Porto tonic, or do a little shopping.

Porto Portugal | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

The view of Porto from the riverfront promenade in Gaia

 

Kopke and Caves Calem Porto | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

Wine houses, the waterfront promenade, and Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar in Vila Nova de Gaia

Ride the Gaia Cable Car

Running from riverfront of Gaia to Jardim do Morro is a cable car. The upper station is located near the Dom Luís I bridge and Jardim do Morro and runs parallel to the Douro River to the lower station next to the river (the Cais de Gaia station).

It is a scenic way to get between these two points. If you start at the Cais de Gaia station, it will take you up to the level of the bridge, saving you a hefty uphill walk.

For hours and pricing, visit the official website.

Gaia Cable Car | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

The Gaia Cable Car

Miradouro da Serra do Pilar

This panoramic viewpoint is located high in the hills of Gaia, near the Luís I bridge and Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, a monastery that dates back to the 1500s. It’s free to visit, open all day, and from here you get one of the best views of Porto, Gaia, and the Douro River.

Best View of Porto Portugal | Things to Do in Vila Nova de Gaia

The view from Miradouro da Serra do Pilar

How to Get Here: Getting here isn’t obvious. If you crossed the upper level of the Dom Luis I Bridge, walk down Avenue da Republica, turn left, and immediately walk up Rampa do Infante Santo. It’s an uphill walk on this street to get to the viewpoint. From the Dom Luis I Bridge, it is almost a 1 km walk that takes about 12 minutes, a little shorter if you start at the Jardim do Morro metro station.

Where to Eat in Gaia

Vinum

This restaurant is located at Graham’s Port Lodge. It has indoor and outdoor seating. If you reserve a table on the outdoor patio, you will be treated to panoramic views of Gaia, the Douro River, and Porto. We had lunch here and highly recommend it. The food is wonderful and we were able to taste wine and port during our meal.

This restaurant sits next to their wine shop, so if you taste anything you like, you can purchase it before you leave.

Make a reservation in advance because this is one of the top restaurants in Gaia.

Enoteca 1756 – Real Companhia Velha

This large, modern restaurant opens up to an outdoor terrace with views of Porto. The ambience is perfect…it’s not too casual but not too formal. The service is impeccable as well. We recommend the Wagyu tacos as a starter…yum!

Enoteca 1756 Porto

Enoteca 1756

Again, make a reservation in advance because this is another popular spot.

We could only eat at so many places, but other restaurants that came up in our research include The Lodge: Dona Maria Restaurante, Bello Rooftop, and the Yeatman Gastronomic Restaurant (a 2-star Michelin restaurant at the Yeatman Hotel).

How to Get to Vila Nova de Gaia

If you are staying in Porto, there are several different ways to get to Gaia.

The cheapest way is to walk from Porto to Gaia, crossing the Dom Luís I bridge. How much walking you’ll do depends on your starting point in Porto.

You can also use the metro or the bus to cross the river, saving you some steps. Uber or another ride share app (we have also heard great things about Bolt) is another option.

We visited Gaia twice, getting to and from here on foot one day and using Uber on the second day (it was easier and faster to use Uber to get from our hotel in Porto to the Niepoort wine cellar, rather than a combination of public transportation and walking).

Sandeman Tour Porto

Sandeman | Wine Cellars in Porto

One Day in Gaia Itinerary

If you want to spend a day in Gaia, tasting port, having lunch and/or dinner, and enjoying the views across the Douro River to Porto, here’s how to do it. And while in Porto, it’s never too early in the day to taste port. 😉

This itinerary is how we spent our first day in Gaia. You can substitute the cellars we visited for something different.

10:00 am: We took the Niepoort and Friends tour and tasting. This ended at 11:30 am, but tours can run late, so keep that in mind if you are making a reservation for your next activity. Alternatively, you can tour a different port lodge, or visit WOW in the morning, saving a wine cellar tour for the afternoon.

Midday: Lunch at Vinum, Graham’s Port Lodge

3:00 pm: 1790 Tour at Sandeman. Alternatively, you could visit a museum at WOW followed by a tasting at Taylor’s (we liked the port and the experience more at Taylor’s than nearby Fonseca).

5:00 pm: Spend some time along the riverfront in Gaia with the option to do tastings at the wine houses here. Kopke and Burmester would be our top picks (we are big fans of these ports).

7:00 pm: Dinner or watch the sunset from the Dom Luís I bridge. We had dinner at Enoteca 1756. Of course, you can pick a different restaurant in Gaia or return to Porto, if you are staying in Porto. Walking across the Luís I bridge at sunset is a great thing to do in Porto. You can walk up to the bridge from the riverfront or ride the cable car.

Tours in Gaia: Port Tasting in Porto

There are many tours that include visits to wine cellars and port wine tastings. Here are several of the highest rated tours in Porto that include visits to the wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia.

 

 


If you have any questions about the wine cellars in Porto, how to visit Gaia, or if you want to share your favorite wine cellars in Porto, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Portugal

PORTO: We cover the best things to do in Porto in our Porto Bucket List. Plan your visit with our 2 Days in Porto Itinerary.

BRAGA & GUIMARÃES: These two towns are located in northern Portugal and make a great day trip from Porto. Plan your visit with our guides to Braga and Bom Jesus do Monte and medieval town of Guimarães.

PORTUGAL ITINERARY: If you have 10 days in Portugal, here are 5 different ways to plan your trip.

SINTRA: In our article Best Things to Do in Sintra, we cover the top sights to see in Sintra. In our article One Day in Sintra, we provide three different ways to plan a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon.

NAZARÉ: Nazaré is famous for its enormous waves, making it a top surfing destination in the world. Learn more about this coastal town in our Guide to Nazaré.

ÓBIDOS: Óbidos is a hillside town that is a joy to explore. Learn more in our Guide to Óbidos.

DOURO VALLEY: Get started with our Douro Valley Travel Guide, which covers the essential things to know when planning a trip to this wine region. We also have a guide to 8 Wineries to Visit in the Douro Valley.

We have TONS more information about Portugal in our Portugal Travel Guide, including Lisbon, Sintra, Porto, the Algarve, and the Douro Valley.

 

Best Wine Cellars Porto Portugal

 

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Comments 2

  1. Avatar for Wendy
    Wendy

    Hi, will you release your Lisbon / Porto guide soon? I am here this week and have been using your guides religiously for other cities / countries. You are the only source I trust!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Wendy. I’m glad you like our site and I am very flattered that we are the only source you trust. Within the next 24 hours I plan to publish our Best Things to Do in Porto guide. Lisbon won’t be until early 2024 (I’m sorry we won’t have it out in time for your trip, but I left a to-do list for Lisbon in the comment section of our Sintra article that could be helpful…it’s not complete but includes some of our favorite experiences). In Lisbon, we had dinner at Cura, a one star Michelin restaurant. It was the best meal we have ever had and the bread was simply amazing. And if you have any other questions, please let us know. Cheers, Julie

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