By Robert K Stephen, CSW
(TORONTO, ON) – I had the opportunity in November 2013, as the wine writer for Square Media Group, to be invited to Porto and the Douro region of Portugal. It was a 6-day visit of the major port houses with some table wines scattered in.
I’d already been there on vacation a few times so I thought it would be a somewhat interesting trip focusing on wine. However, as only one other journalist from Canada joined me, we had an extensive and highly personal trip and experience that no amount of money could buy.
I wrote 12 articles on that trip, covering every Port house and table wine producer that we encountered. It was tremendously educational, but gruelling.
I think it was about 50 wines a day in formal tastings and more at rich dinners and lunches at various Quintas (estates) in the countryside. Although perhaps a bit weak on the technicalities, I can tell you by taste the differences between a Ruby, Tawny, Late Bottle Vintage, and a Vintage Port.
I can also attest to the formalistic hospitality of the Portuguese. A fierce sense of decorum that trust and respect quickly break down and reveal a warmth and sense of humour. You are not dealing with, “Hey, how y’all doing tonight?”
After our trip, we were debriefed by Manuel de Noves Cabral, the President of the Board of Directors of the Instituto dos Vinhos de Douro e de Porto (IVDP), who asked me about our trip and what could be done to make Port a more popular beverage. One of my suggestions was to create an International Port Day, like the Argentineans created an international Malbec Day.
Low and behold, 2014 turned out to be the first Port Wine Day in Porto.
September 10, 2015 will be the second Port Wine Day, in Porto. A wonderful idea for a wonderful wine.
The entire Douro region will be involved in this celebration. Although the official Port Day will be September 10, the actual programme will run from September 3 through 13.
During this time there will the opportunity to follow the gastronomic route, and restaurants from Porto and Gaia will offer food pairings with Port. Shops around Porto will have Port inspired decorations and there will be special Port wine dinners on September10, with downtown Porto bars promoting drinks and cocktails made from Port.
The goal of Port Wine Day is, above all, a celebration of Port.
The Douro demarcated region was founded on 10 September 1756, which is some 100 years earlier than Canada was created as a nation. The three pillars of any designation of origin were established, namely a geographic delimitation, a regulatory organization, and a controlling body.
My sense is that Port Day is gradually moving towards an International Port Day where Port will be celebrated internationally in major Port markets. The goal of this second Port Day is to build the basis for a truly international Port Day celebration.
September 10 will be a big media day where provocative and informative seminars will be given. Further media events are planned on September 11 and 12, including a further conference, a trip up the spectacular Douro River, and an open day at the IVDP facilities.
Now, during the week of September 3 to 13, the Port houses over the bridge from Porto in Gaia will be featuring special initiatives. These special activities in the shops, restaurants, and wine dinners will be open to the public.
Porto is Portugal’s second largest city, full of old world charm and mixed with a bit of grit and toughness. It is also mandatory for you to take a day cruise up the Douro River. Think of it as Europe’s Grand Canyon.
It is also a superb starting point for discovering the beautiful north of Portugal.
Great food, wine, scenery, and hospitality at a reasonable price. What’s not to like?
Stay tuned. I have received an invitation to attend. More details may be forthcoming.