Portugal is overflowing with history, art and culture and World of Wine wants you to experience all of it in one place. Situated in Vila Nova de Gaia, World of Wine has museums, shopping, plenty of incredible places to eat, a wine school and even a chocolate factory. I took a trip to the south bank of the Douro River to visit World of Wine and although the emphasis on wine is prominent, there is so much more to it.
World of Wine, Porto’s Cultural District
Situated right next to the Douro River with a perfect view of the Dom Luís I Bridge and the colourful city of Porto, it’s worth mentioning that everywhere you look is picturesque. World of Wine’s indoor hub, where you can hang out, eat and shop, has a modern and fresh feel all while keeping the integrity of the wine cellars that it’s built in. The entire space is drenched in history and a sense of pride; reinforced by the genuine enthusiasm of every person I came across who is working there. Between the many restaurants, bars, cafes, and the museums and exhibits; there is something to keep you entertained whether you’re a wine enthusiast or not (although it’s way better if you are.)
Porto is a lively city filled with culture, nightlife, and experiences as well as its mouth-watering food and wines. The city has quaint cobbled streets, impressive and interesting architecture and buzzing restaurants and bars. The only thing to (quite literally) put a dampener on my trip was that it was pouring with rain every day I was there. It meant I didn’t get to explore as much as I would have liked to or throw on a cute little dress and go out out in the city centre, but I found plenty to do and still found ways to have a great time.
Porto & Port
If Porto is historically known and loved for anything, it’s famous for producing port but the city boasts more than the sweet, fortified wine that I’ve only known to be found at the back of my old school friends parents’ cupboard.
Port is one of the few things, when it comes to alcohol consumption, that I’m actually happy to be wrong about. The entire experience at World of Wine opened my eyes not just to port but to the array of Portuguese wines that the city thanks to the many wine regions and Portugal’s overflowing passion for winemaking.
The first meal I had in Porto was at Golden Catch (one of the many incredible restaurants in World of Wine’s cultural district) where I was introduced to Taylor’s Chip Dry and Tonic, which is white port and tonic in a can. I’ve never tried white port before (let alone with tonic in a can) but I can tell you now that I’d choose it over Pimm’s and lemonade every time.
The Wine Experience at World of Wine
The wine experience is an interactive museum where you can learn about winemaking from grape to glass. World of Wine incorporates its own footage from their vineyards throughout the museum and gives a lot of insight into Portuguese wine regions. There were cool moments with quizzes to see what grape variety you are or what flavour profile you’re most suited to which was really fun. I learned the difference between taste and flavour through holding my nose and eating a jellybean and it blew my mind.
If the wine experience didn’t teach me enough, I had a 90-minute introduction at the World of Wine school, and it was impressive. The school offers an introductory course for wine novices, like myself, to learn the basics of wine tasting and wine production with the emphasis being on Portuguese wines. For those who want in-depth industry knowledge, World of Wine is now one of the small number of places in Portugal where you can get a diploma provided by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET.)
The wine school offers an introduction to wine and tasting which is 2 hours long for 30 Euros and I got a chance to have a little taster session when I visited. No prior knowledge of wine is required for this course, so I found it light and easy to digest.
I love a great glass of wine and I thought I had quite a broad knowledge of wine for my age, but it was incredibly eye opening to me. They ran through the basic principles about wine and explained terminologies used when tasting and analysing wine. I also learned how to identify my own personal taste and learned a lot about what I should look out for when I’m choosing or tasting wine. I learned what you’re actually supposed to do when tasting wine and it turns out that I’ve been doing it wrong my entire life. I was taught how to taste wine step-by-step from smelling and swirling to finally drinking. The course was incredibly interesting and it’s great to come away with information that I can share over a bottle of wine at a dinner party. I was excited to get home and be the one to order and taste the wine.
My food and drink experiences in Porto
The 1828 restaurant was my favourite dining experience of all. It was the perfect setting, with an elegant and intimate dining room overlooking the Douro River. Each course was stunningly paired with a wine or port recommended by our enthusiastic waiter. We ordered three different cuts of steak with an array of sides. Also, I must give a mention to the port salt that was served with the meat – it is a game changer.
Other notable bars and restaurants I visited were Angel’s Share– a chic cocktail bar with a sleek interior, kick-ass cocktails and ‘instagramable’ views of the river and the city and Root & Vine, a vegetarian restaurant where I had the most insane beetroot risotto and a cauliflower tempura dish that I still dream about.
The Yeatman is a luxury wine hotel and spa in Porto with spectacular views over the UNESCO World Heritage city and the Douro River. The first thing I noticed about the Yeatman was the hotel’s ability to remain effortlessly decadent and classic without feeling overdone or in your face. The lobby is a brilliant, open space with a grand staircase, perfectly polished floors leading straight through to windows framing uninterrupted views of the city.
I was met with a glass of wine on arrival and, as the only luxury wine hotel in Portugal, it should remain unsurprising that during my stay at the Yeatman, my lips didn’t touch a single glass of wine that I didn’t enjoy. The hotel oozed understated elegance and had nods to Portugal’s traditions and history of winemaking throughout. My suite was just as impressive as the rest of the hotel. It was spacious and vibrant, had a patio overlooking the city and had a bathtub big enough for me to take a swim in every night.
In a nutshell
Overall, my take on Porto is that it is a perfect getaway for a relaxed city break if you’re in the mood for something sophisticated and it’s an even better place to visit if you have a passion for history and culture. The standard of food and wine is exquisite and the city is picturesque.
To discover more, visit: wow.pt
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Five things to do in Porto
- Visit the Chocolate Story
It’s a chocolate museum with its own working chocolate factory, tasting room, chocolate cafe and a gift shop where you can personalise your own chocolate bar. Need I say more?
- Museums and Exhibitions
The Bridge Collection was one of my favourites- It is World of Wine CEO Adrian Bridge’s private collection of drinking vessels, some dated back to 7000BC. It’s one of the most comprehensive private collections of drinking vessels in the world.
- Take a walk
The best way to get to know any city is by taking the streets and exploring and Porto has such unique streets and so much history. You really feel the soul of the city when you’re getting lost down the cobbled streets.
- Try the local food
Every place in the world does food differently and Porto is one of those places that get it right. Pastel de Nata, Francesinha (Porto’s signature sandwich) and Peixinhos da Horta (fried green beans said to be the inspiration for Japanese tempura) are just a few native dishes that you need to try when you’re there. Get out of your comfort zone and swerve the obvious restaurants to explore the street food and the spots that are occupied by locals to get a real taste of Porto.
- Livraria Lello
The iconic bookstore is one of the oldest in Portugal and it’s rumoured that J.K. Rowling found inspiration for Hogwarts scenery at this bookstore when she lived in Porto as an English teacher. Harry Potter fan or not, it is a must.
All imagery courtesy of World of Wine unless stated otherwise.