Oporto and the Duoro

Post your experiences of travel, especially for the Douro region. Make recommendations for places to stay and visit or ask advice from those that have already been there.
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JacobH
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Oporto and the Duoro

Post by JacobH » 13:34 Thu 11 Sep 2014

Rather at the last minute, CHR and I booked a trip to Porto. A consequence of it being booked rather at the last minute was that we had no time to anything in advance and so were limited to quintas and lodges that were open to the general public without reservation. We did, however, arrange a car for the first time, which makes an immeasurable difference to the experience (albeit perhaps at the expense of one’s Port consumption as the designated driver...).

A few nights at Quinta do Portal were followed by a couple of days in Oporto.

Quinta do Portal

Quinta do Portal has had quite extraordinary amounts of money spent on it. The hotel for anyone who hasn’t been has a lovely first floor guest lounge, overlooking the vineyards and the two swimming pools. What particularly struck out to me was the wonderful cellars, shimmering terracotta-coloured concrete, one of which has temperature and humidity control. No doubt the days of Douro bake are long gone here.

The Ports were as good as I remember them to be from the occasional samples I have had in the past. I was also quite impressed with the table wines (including the whites), although I regret we didn’t have time to taste our way through their extensive Moscatel range. I hadn’t realised they were one of the few shippers doing it seriously. They said that there was a more limited demarcated zone for it (around Sabrosa, I think) which I also didn’t know.

Pinhão

We did the touristy things: drove out to see the different quintas, went on the boat trip to Tua and back and so forth. Of course, doing the touristy things does bring some benefits. At Quinta do Panascal, there is a little section of vineyard with one vine from each of the main varietals: Nacional, Francesca, Roriz, etc., which were in fruit. Trying a grape from each, I was quite surprised how similar they all were, especially considering how wildly different young single-varietal Ports taste.

Oporto

In Oporto, we stayed at the Yeatman for the first time. Whilst the hotel is wonderful, I can’t help feeling a little bit like Guy de Maupassant and the Eiffel Tour: the best feature of the views from the hotel room is that you don’t have to see the hotel...

That said, any hotel that provides a copy of “1066 And All That” can be forgiven most architectural faults.

The biggest and best change to the city since my last visit has to be the existence of vegetarian Francesinha (regrettably not availble at the Yeatman).

Port

Anyway, to the Port. We tried a good selection. I was amazed how the chip-dry syndrome has caught on, with pretty much every shipper proffering a white Port to tourists. It has also extended even further with the Pink being offered quite frequently. That said, some of them are now quite good, and there was an awful lot of talk of aging white Ports to put into blends which can only increase the quality in the long term.

More disappointedly, I was also amazed at how few shippers take their products seriously by even offering Vintage Port to try. The most expensive selection of Port to try at Offley was a White, a Rose, and a Ruby Reserve, none of which really is much of a demonstration of the quality of the house. Quevedo is one of the few to get things right with its bar (lodge probably isn’t the right term) having pretty much everything by the glass.

As a result of the rather mediocre selection, I decided to try some of the tawnies, which are usually on offer everywhere. This rather reinforced my previous view that colheitas are almost always better Ports: producing a product consistently over the years just seems to require the wine-maker to operate with one too many hands tied behind his or her back. However, I did come away with an appreciation of the 20-year-olds, many of which have a good combination of fruit and wood and seem like a good, safe, bet.

I think the top three Ports I tried were the Encostas de Provonsande, Quinta dos Espinheiros, “25-year-old” tawny; Taylor’s 1964 Colheita (though I’m not convinced it’s worth £200 a bottle); and the Fonseca 20-year-old.

I was not terribly impressed with the Fonseca 40-year-old (brown, cloudy, little aftertaste) nor the Taylor’s 30- and 40-year-old (far too similar to one another and far too young tasting) which was a shame because I thought these would all be very good.

The best house was probably Churchill for overall consistency (something I’ve noticed for a few years now) whilst the most disappointing was Offley. Whilst the Barão Forester might, I suppose, be characteristic unpredictable, I wonder if he really would approve of a tour which started with a comment that treading by foot is “old fashioned” and having the Pipas in the Lodge marked not individually but by batches of 100 or more.
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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by jdaw1 » 14:30 Thu 11 Sep 2014

You seem to have had a good time, which is excellent.

And welcome back to :TPF:.

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JacobH
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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by JacobH » 15:04 Thu 11 Sep 2014

I did indeed and thank you: it’s very kind of you.
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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by Glenn E. » 17:44 Thu 11 Sep 2014

Welcome back! It does sound like you had an excellent trip.
JacobH wrote:As a result of the rather mediocre selection, I decided to try some of the tawnies, which are usually on offer everywhere. This rather reinforced my previous view that colheitas are almost always better Ports: producing a product consistently over the years just seems to require the wine-maker to operate with one too many hands tied behind his or her back. However, I did come away with an appreciation of the 20-year-olds, many of which have a good combination of fruit and wood and seem like a good, safe, bet.
All true, in my opinion. That said, I do typically also find that Colheitas require a little more aging to reach a similar level of "tawniness" to 20-, 30-, and 40-yr old Tawnies. For example, I typically need a 30-yr old Colheita to match the apparent age of a high-end 20-yr old Tawny Port such as Ferreira's or Ramos Pinto's. This is at least partially due to the fact that most TWAIOA are actually older (on average) than the number on the label.

20-yr old TWAIOA are easily the best bang-for-the-buck tawnies available. Yes the 30- and 40-yr olds are better, but they're generally not 2x or 3x better as the price would seem to indicate.

One other note - I typically find TWAIOA to be more full and "rounder" than Colheitas, which tend to have more focus. Both appealing in their own way.

(You might note that I have failed to mention 10-yr old tawnies. That is deliberate. They aren't really tawnies yet; I find them a confused mix of ruby and tawny that can't claim to be either yet also don't fill any particularly necessary niche.)
Glenn Elliott

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by LGTrotter » 12:23 Sun 14 Sep 2014

Indeed a well turned post. And good to hear from one who I knew from the back catalogue of :tpf: rather than current postings, I confess also it is good to see a fellow vegetarian amongst this wilderness of ruminant nibblers. Glenn must have o/d'ed on bison as I simply can't make out his TWAIOA* acronym. Any suggestions out there?

*Adjusted for taste and decency as advised.
Last edited by LGTrotter on 22:04 Sun 14 Sep 2014, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by AW77 » 12:42 Sun 14 Sep 2014

TWAIOA = Tawny with indication of age ?
The Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt know thy Port

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by DRT » 13:11 Sun 14 Sep 2014

LGTrotter wrote:TWATIO
:|
"The first duty of Port is to be red"

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by Glenn E. » 05:11 Mon 15 Sep 2014

AW77 wrote:TWAIOA = Tawny with indication of age ?
Yes, Tawny With An Indication Of Age. I used to call them "aged tawnies" until it was pointed out that a 1984 Colheita is also an "aged tawny." There really isn't a simple name for the category.

I suppose it could be shortened to TIA, but I'm not clear on the proper grammar.
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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by PhilW » 08:45 Mon 15 Sep 2014

Glenn E. wrote:
AW77 wrote:TWAIOA = Tawny with indication of age ?
Yes, Tawny With An Indication Of Age. I used to call them "aged tawnies" until it was pointed out that a 1984 Colheita is also an "aged tawny." There really isn't a simple name for the category.
I'm quite happy with "Aged tawny" as a class, being where an age is specified, vs "Colheita" as a class where the year is specified. Sure, colheitas are also aged tawnies, but then vintage ports are also ruby ports, which does not stop the term "ruby port" being generally used as a class meaning basic ruby, as opposed to vintage, as well as an overall description of the family of (basic) ruby, lbv and vintage. Somewhat imprecise and lacking clarity to someone for whom the definitions are not known, yes, but once defined they work ok as categories, even if less than ideal.

By the way, excellent reply above:
Glenn E. wrote:That said, I do typically also find that Colheitas require a little more aging to reach a similar level of "tawniness" to 20-, 30-, and 40-yr old Tawnies. For example, I typically need a 30-yr old Colheita to match the apparent age of a high-end 20-yr old Tawny Port such as Ferreira's or Ramos Pinto's. This is at least partially due to the fact that most TWAIOA are actually older (on average) than the number on the label.

20-yr old TWAIOA are easily the best bang-for-the-buck tawnies available. Yes the 30- and 40-yr olds are better, but they're generally not 2x or 3x better as the price would seem to indicate.

One other note - I typically find TWAIOA to be more full and "rounder" than Colheitas, which tend to have more focus. Both appealing in their own way.

(You might note that I have failed to mention 10-yr old tawnies. That is deliberate. They aren't really tawnies yet; I find them a confused mix of ruby and tawny that can't claim to be either yet also don't fill any particularly necessary niche.)
I could not add enough +1s to express my agree with your points here; your comments almost exactly :twisted: mirror my feelings on the different aged tawnies.

Finally - welcome back Jacob!

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by PhilW » 09:06 Mon 15 Sep 2014

Somewhat rudely, I just realised that I've replied to Glenn's (most excellent) reply on tawnies, before responding to Jacob's original post; my apologies.
JacobH wrote:The biggest and best change to the city since my last visit has to be the existence of vegetarian Francesinha (regrettably not availble at the Yeatman).
I'm both intrigued and horrified by the idea of vegetarian Francesinha, presumably still the same cheese/beer/tomato/paprika sauce but with the ham, sausage and steak/chicken replaced with a vegetable medley?
JacobH wrote:I was amazed how the chip-dry syndrome has caught on, with pretty much every shipper proffering a white Port to tourists. It has also extended even further with the Pink being offered quite frequently. That said, some of them are now quite good,
Heresy! Ok, I disagree on this one; I was also very disappointed by the lack of availability of vintage port to taste in many of the lodges (a point you also made later), but I would go much further and disagree regarding the (now common, it seems) cheap white port being served as a tour-end tasting; the cheap white and ruby does little to encourage people to drink port further, imo. Come on port, houses; at least give the option of paying, say, €6 instead of €4/5 and give them an LBV or something... (of the lodges I have visited, Grahams and Quevedo stand out well above their peers on this issue, and deserve credit and recommendation for this).
JacobH wrote:and there was an awful lot of talk of aging white Ports to put into blends which can only increase the quality in the long term.
This pleases me; I think there is space, and hopefully demand, for a lot more aged white in the market; As a category, I think it is currently little-known, and very under-appreciated.
JacobH wrote:The best house was probably Churchill for overall consistency (something I’ve noticed for a few years now)
I'm becoming more impressed with Churchill as time passes also. I've just drunk my penultimate bottle from a stash of '85 purchased with Rob a couple of years back, and wish I had more of it.

And again, welcome back to TPF :)

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by Glenn E. » 16:32 Mon 15 Sep 2014

PhilW wrote:
JacobH wrote:The biggest and best change to the city since my last visit has to be the existence of vegetarian Francesinha (regrettably not availble at the Yeatman).
I'm both intrigued and horrified by the idea of vegetarian Francesinha, presumably still the same cheese/beer/tomato/paprika sauce but with the ham, sausage and steak/chicken replaced with a vegetable medley?
I believe this falls under the general rule that I have about food that goes like this:

"Do not try to make me diet Lasagne."

Lasagne is not a diet food. Lasagne is a delicious comfort food. If you try to make a diet version of Lasagne, you will fail, because what you end up making will not be Lasagne.

I'm perfectly happy to eat low calorie or low fat foods. But make something original and delicious in its own way.

So I now have a corollary:

"Do not try to make me vegetarian Francesinha."

Francesinha is a meat dish. If you take out the meat, it is no longer a Francesinha. It might be delicious. I might even order it. But call it something else because calling it a Francesinha, even calling it a vegetarian Francesinha, is at best misguided. It is not a Francesinha.
Glenn Elliott

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by Andy Velebil » 02:03 Tue 16 Sep 2014

DRT wrote:
LGTrotter wrote:TWATIO
:|
Glenn,
Stop this nonsense. The Brit's can't even learn to say Colheita after 200 some years. How do you expect them to learn TWAIOA?

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by PhilW » 07:31 Tue 16 Sep 2014

Andy Velebil wrote:
DRT wrote:
LGTrotter wrote:TWATIO
:|
Glenn,
Stop this nonsense. The Brit's can't even learn to say Colheita after 200 some years. How do you expect them to learn TWAIOA?
Col-what? We have Cauliflower and Colliwobbles(sp?), but your word is just weird :wink: - Maybe you mean Single Harvest Tawny (one of the least well thought through acronyms).

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by Andy Velebil » 11:48 Tue 16 Sep 2014

PhilW wrote:
Andy Velebil wrote:
DRT wrote:
LGTrotter wrote:TWATIO
:|
Glenn,
Stop this nonsense. The Brit's can't even learn to say Colheita after 200 some years. How do you expect them to learn TWAIOA?
Col-what? We have Cauliflower and Colliwobbles(sp?), but your word is just weird :wink: - Maybe you mean Single Harvest Tawny (one of the least well thought through acronyms).
You mean SHT?

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by jdaw1 » 12:51 Tue 16 Sep 2014

In the mid-1960s Philip Hill, Higginson, Erlanger merged with Samuel. One of the key legal entities was an Investment Trust, which compelled the merged firm to be Hill Samuel rather than Samuel Hill.

And an ex-Polytechnic got as far as printing headed paper for ‘City University of Newcastle upon Tyne’ before realising that the name had an acronymic problem.

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by JacobH » 16:57 Thu 18 Sep 2014

Glenn E. wrote:So I now have a corollary:

"Do not try to make me vegetarian Francesinha."

Francesinha is a meat dish. If you take out the meat, it is no longer a Francesinha. It might be delicious. I might even order it. But call it something else because calling it a Francesinha, even calling it a vegetarian Francesinha, is at best misguided. It is not a Francesinha.
I admire this food purity. And, no doubt, you enforce it by treating that toasted and buttered snack a muffin and refusing to name those over-raised sweet cakes as such :-P But in doing so, spare a thought for us vegetarians. If I have to refer to a grilled ice-hockey puck shaped dish of pressed beans a spices served in a bun with salad and sauces rather than a bean burger, I’m not sure I’d get round to eating them very often...

(And isn’t a Francesinha all about the sauce in any event?)
PhilW wrote:I'm both intrigued and horrified by the idea of vegetarian Francesinha, presumably still the same cheese/beer/tomato/paprika sauce but with the ham, sausage and steak/chicken replaced with a vegetable medley?
Yes, pretty much. Even that seemed a bit much for a sandwich so those who eat the real things have my respect!
JacobH wrote:I'm becoming more impressed with Churchill as time passes also. I've just drunk my penultimate bottle from a stash of '85 purchased with Rob a couple of years back, and wish I had more of it.
I wonder how much older Churchill there is in circulation. Production can’t have been massive in the early years. Despite my previous comment, I have just had a very disappointing Churchil Reserve Ruby in a 20cl bottle. Tasted rather overdecanted from opening. But that might not be a good storage size.
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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by djewesbury » 17:58 Thu 18 Sep 2014

JacobH wrote:I'm becoming more impressed with Churchill as time passes also. I've just drunk my penultimate bottle from a stash of '85 purchased with Rob a couple of years back, and wish I had more of it […] I wonder how much older Churchill there is in circulation. Production can’t have been massive in the early years. Despite my previous comment, I have just had a very disappointing Churchil Reserve Ruby in a 20cl bottle. Tasted rather overdecanted from opening. But that might not be a good storage size.
I keep hearing how wonderful the 85 is but I have yet to taste it. I've also heard that the other earlier vintages were a bit 'meh'. Is this a common perception?
Daniel J.
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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by LGTrotter » 19:34 Thu 18 Sep 2014

djewesbury wrote:I keep hearing how wonderful the 85 is but I have yet to taste it. I've also heard that the other earlier vintages were a bit 'meh'. Is this a common perception?
I've not had the 85, I thought the 91 decidedly 'meh', but I do remember in dim and distant times a wine shop in Padstow which would decant half bottles of an 84 of some species from Churchill which was surprisingly pleasant and good value.
JacobH wrote:
Glenn E. wrote:So I now have a corollary:

"Do not try to make me vegetarian Francesinha."

Francesinha is a meat dish. If you take out the meat, it is no longer a Francesinha. It might be delicious. I might even order it. But call it something else because calling it a Francesinha, even calling it a vegetarian Francesinha, is at best misguided. It is not a Francesinha.
I admire this food purity. And, no doubt, you enforce it by treating that toasted and buttered snack a muffin and refusing to name those over-raised sweet cakes as such :-P But in doing so, spare a thought for us vegetarians. If I have to refer to a grilled ice-hockey puck shaped dish of pressed beans a spices served in a bun with salad and sauces rather than a bean burger, I’m not sure I’d get round to eating them very often...

(And isn’t a Francesinha all about the sauce in any event?)
It's no good arguing with Glenn, lord knows I've tried :wink:

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by JacobH » 10:47 Fri 19 Sep 2014

djewesbury wrote:I keep hearing how wonderful the 85 is but I have yet to taste it. I've also heard that the other earlier vintages were a bit 'meh'. Is this a common perception?
I suppose it depends on what you describe as “earlier”. There weren’t many Churchills that pre-dated the ’85! The ’82 is pretty good, I think, and I think the ’91 will be too (though it’s had mixed reviews here). Are there any other Churchill vintages that pre-date the ’94? There was a SQVP from ’83 and ’87 (the latter of which I’ve tried but can’t remember) but I think that’s about it.
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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by AHB » 23:46 Fri 19 Sep 2014

LGTrotter wrote:...I do remember in dim and distant times a wine shop in Padstow which would decant half bottles of an 84 of some species from Churchill which was surprisingly pleasant and good value.
Ahh. That would have been Bin2 (who are still there but were called something different) and the Churchill 1984 crusted
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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by LGTrotter » 00:03 Sat 20 Sep 2014

AHB wrote:Ahh. That would have been Bin2 (who are still there but were called something different) and the Churchill 1984 crusted
Indeed it was, how fantastic of you to remember. I always wanted to decant it myself but somehow I never plucked up the courage to ask. I would be in agonies wondering if he was going to put a teaspoon of sludge in it (as he did on one occasion). I think it was a tenner, it made me smile to remember going to Kernow.

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Re: Oporto and the Duoro

Post by AHB » 00:26 Sat 20 Sep 2014

LGTrotter wrote:
AHB wrote:Ahh. That would have been Bin2 (who are still there but were called something different) and the Churchill 1984 crusted
Indeed it was, how fantastic of you to remember. I always wanted to decant it myself but somehow I never plucked up the courage to ask. I would be in agonies wondering if he was going to put a teaspoon of sludge in it (as he did on one occasion). I think it was a tenner, it made me smile to remember going to Kernow.
I call in there whenever I am in Cornwall (several times a year to keep my mother happy). Last time I was in Bin2 they had a very interesting selection of Krohn vintage and LBV ports that I've not seen anywhere else in the UK.
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