Interesting trip-planning, huh? We actually planned to visit Madeira, followed by Porto, two cities renown for their historic fortified wines, and, guess what, Beth doesn’t even drink.
When we arrived at our AirBnB in Madeira, a bottle of Madeira wine and a box of Madeira cake sat on the dining table as welcome gifts. Joe poured a short glass many nights, and we ate little slices of cake. Not bad. We passed Blandy’s, one of the original wine companies of Madeira, on our daily walks and finally decided to take a tour.
Wine production in Madeira was well established when it was discovered that wine, fortified with alcohol and left on a ship for a period of time and in heated conditions, produced a better wine.
A few facts we learned on the tour: Fortified wines are generally sweet. Regular wines have an alcoholic content of about 12.5-14.5%, while fortified wines in the European Union are in the range of 18-22%. Blandy’s ages their Madeira in barrels made from American oak. The largest markets for Madeira are Britain and the US, with port sales highest in Europe.
We left the island of Madeira and flew to Porto, on the Portuguese mainland. Within days of our arrival, we walked across the Ponte Luis I bridge from Porto to Villa Nova de Gaia, where port wine is produced.
We walked to Taylors (closed for a private event), strolled down to Offleys (too late for the tour in English), before landing at Sandeman.
Port, like Madeira, is a fortified wine produced only with grapes from the Douro region of Portugal.
Port wine is best served as an after dinner drink with cheeses or chocolates. Here was our problem. Our tour filed into the tasting room at 4pm. Joe hadn’t had lunch. Not exactly the optimum conditions for a true taste test. Nevertheless, he tried the white port sample first. Too sweet. He tried the tawny port sample. Too sweet. He sipped again. No, both were just too sweet for him.
We knew what we did want – something to eat – so we walked back over the bridge to Porto and had a delicious meal at Jimao Tapas e Vinho. And what to drink when in Porto? Joe ordered a glass of lovely, dry, red wine from the Douro region, and was happy.