Porto’s Taylor Fladgate Port Cellars Tour Review – Sneak Peek at Soon-to-be-Unveiled Self-Guided Tours

When you take the funicular ride to view the city you can see Taylor's sign and similarly the names of other port bottlers with cellars by the Douro River

 

You can go to Taylor Fladgate to learn about port wine’s intriguing history,

 

Barão Fladgate RestaurantBarão Fladgate Restaurant entrance

dine in its gourmet restaurant,

 

Barão Fladgate Restaurant's sloped ceilings and decor feel like a very welcome break from the beating sun

 

The food in Barão Fladgate Restaurant was gourmet and delicious from soup to nuts

 

or rather, from amuse bouche

 

to the melon soup..

 

to the entree and dessert...

 

but the best part of our meal was of course the wines

 

or just to sample its excellent vintages. 

 

The video shows the steps of making wine. Here you see the grapes with skins at an early stage

 

Historic photos show you port making in days gone by

 

We did all three- and also got a sneak peek at their renovation –in-progress that includes a first-of-its-kind audio-visual tour of the cellars and their on–site museum.

 

The tour finishes in the tasting room, which you happily share with peacocks as well as other guests. There is no time limit on how long you stay. Wines are sold by the glass. The basic tasting menu include three types of port. You can also buy wine by the bottle

 

Picture that you’ll end your tour sipping a port wine among free range peacocks and pondering what you’ve learned about this fortified wine’s story. 

 

For starts, you may be considering that if there hadn’t been so much war between France and England, port wine just might not have come to be. 

 

View of Porto from patio of The Yeatman Hotel, a luxury hotel owned by the Fladgate Partnership that bottles the Taylor Fladgate ports, among other wines

 

Because of these conflicts, the British sought to replace French wines with others.  Spanish and Italian vintages were an option, but Portugal had the geographic advantage.

 

Taylor Fladgate, which is privately owned to this day, started out as a project of a one-time British wool merchant who also owned a pub in England, Charles Bearsley. 

 

From vantage points at Taylor Fladgate's facilities, you can look towards the river to see narrow roads that go back the hundreds of years when port wine was first established here

 

He came to Portugal, like others from England, to become a wine merchant, and records of his first tax payments and the launch of this business go back to 1692. 

 

View of the Douro River from The Yeatman hotel next to Taylor Fladgate's facilities. As you learn the story of port wine during the tour the import of Fladgate's proximity to the river becomes clear

 

It was actually his grandson, Bartholomew Bearsley, who took the step in 1744 that launched Taylor Fladgate’s staying power. 

 

Port wine is not only fortified wine, but also always a blend

 

He was the first Brit to buy a vineyard in Douro Valley where the grapes were grown.  He moved to the wine-growing region and sent out word that he wanted to taste and bottle only the best wines.   It started a commercial advantage that today has blossomed into port wine sales in more than 100 countries worldwide. 

 

Some of the smaller wooden casks you see in Taylor's cellars are aging tawny ports for decades. We learned that the US market is especially keen on Taylor's tawny ports, which have been featured in high profile American wine magazines

 

On our tour with Taylor Fladgate’s PR Director, Ana Margarida Morgado, we got our first briefing—soon to be followed in vineyards in Douro Valley—of how Douro Valley’s unique terroire is so critical to port vintages. 

 

Ana Margarida Morgado | Public Relations | The Fladgate Partnership, who is spearheading the launch of Fladgate's Port Museum in its cellars, gave us an excellent tour including port wine's history and how Fladgate fits into that, to explaining the terroire that helps make port wine, and every aspect of the cellars' operation and also worldwide marketing

 

There, rocky soil that doesn’t retain water lets it travel via cracks.  The cold winters help the vines rid themselves of diseases, and all port wines stay in the Douro Valley for their first winter, which is when they are blended with spirits (brandy) that help them keep – something that was essential to England when port wine was first “invented”. 

 

In France, the number one market, tawny port is an important aperatif. Margarida says that their market, similar to many other lifestyle and luxury products, is fast finding new customers in China and India

 

From the Douro River you see many wine houses like Taylor The wine usually stays in relatively cold Douro for its first winter but then is shipped to milder temperature Porto for subsequent operations and aging

 

Douro Valley’s peaked geography creates many microclimates and port wine is made from blends that work this diversity to their advantage.  There are said to be about 40 white varietals and about the same number reds.  It’s Taylor Fladgate’s formula to only blend 6 – 8 types in one vintage.  Adding the distilled alcohol (brandy) is what actually stops the fermentation process and makes it “port”. 

 

Coopers were building a new barrel that they started on Monday and expected to finish on Friday

 

What happens to the grape skins? 

 

How do they know it is an exceptional year? 

 

These big vats are for ruby port. Their large size helps keep oxygen to the minimum such that the port can better maintain its ruby color

 

Why are some ports in large vats and others in small casks? 

 

There are about three exceptional years for vintage port wines every decade-- on average

 

These and so many other questions are answered in Taylor Fladgate’s self-guided cellar tours. 

 

Sneak peek at the Fladgate's port museum---with a work-in-progress floor- but where we saw previews of the continous loop films that will tell port's story

 

In the museum, antique tools for making barrels

 

Look closely and you'll notice that every piece in this museum area- -walls and chairs- are made from barrels

 

With movies and small museum-like displays en route, you will be able to use the audio guide for 20 minutes or 2 hours, or anything in between-- as long as your interest holds.  Note:  the tour is wheelchair accessible.

 

Whether they were on the terrace of Taylor Fladgate’s restaurant,

 

Outside the Taylor Fladgate tasting room, there are various gardens and grounds where you can also sip and dine-- quite idyllic

 

sipping in its garden,

 

Look carefully and you can see a mother peacock guarding her newborn chicks in the rose garden. Fladgate cultivates these gardens because they are susceptible to the same diseasesa as the grapes, making them akin to a canary in the coal mines

 

or in the library-like tasting room,

 

Notice the old books in the tasting room, which are actual company records and that give it a British library feel. Photo courtesy of Fladgate Partners

 

we only saw happy campers at Taylor Fladgate

 

This 1985 vintage is one you can taste. We were also intrigued to learn you could get a glass of 1863 vintage for 100 Euros. Photo courtesy of Fladgate Partners

 

Our recommendation is to definitely also make time for the tour – interesting for teetotalers and port wine lovers alike.

 

Taylor Fladgate's logo. Photo: Steven Morris

 

For more information on Taylor Fladgate visit their website.

 

Taylor Fladgate is only the brand name in the US. It's called just "Taylor" elsewhere

 

And, visit the website of Taylor Fladgate’s US distributor, Kobrands, to find out more about retailers selling Taylor Fladgate wines in your locale.

 

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Photos:  Peter Kachergis, unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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