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A Port Wine Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
P (sometimes spelled "Oporto) is both the second-largest city in Portugal and the capital of the port wine industry. If you've ever been tricked into drinking so-called "port" from California or New York, banish those knock-offs from your taste memory: True port or Porto wine is produced only in the world's oldest demarcated wine region--the Douro Valley--under the supervision of IVDP, also known as the Port Wine Institute.
The grapes used for port wine are grown, harvested, crushed, and fermented on quintas or wine estates upriver. The best-known brands of port wine are then brought to Vila Nova de Gaia--across the River Douro from Porto's old town--for blending, aging, bottling, and distribution by wine lodges such as Cálem, which began shipping port wine to Brazil (in exchange for exotic woods) in 1859.
Like other Porto wine lodges, Cálem is open to tourists. For a nominal fee, you can tour the renovated cellars that earned an international "Best of Wine Tourism" award for architecture in 2006.
You'll receive a multilingual guided tour amid the huge vats and casks of the 19th Century cellars, a chance to linger in the Wine Museum, and samples of two port wines in Cálem's attractive tasting room. If you want to purchase Cálem wines and related gifts that might be hard to obtain at home, you're welcome to do so, but there's no pressure to buy.
Cálem faces Vila Nova de Gaia's waterfront promenade on the south bank of the River Douro, across from the old town of Porto. It's the first wine lodge you'll encounter as you turn right and walk south from the Ponte de D. Luis I bridge. Look for the white building with "Cálem" on the roof (see photo above). The lodge is open daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. (November-April) or 7 p.m. (May-October).
For more pictures, including an animated "virtual tour," click "Turismo" on Cálem's Portuguese-language Web site at www.calem.pt. And for more information in English about port wines, see page 2 of this article.
Next page: Buying port wines
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