More often than not, if I’m in Portugal tasting Douro wines, I’ll be based in the Douro Valley. This trip, time wasn’t on my side but the big plus is that I got to see a little more of Oporto (old town pictured) than usual. And I’m more convinced than ever that I should come back here off duty under my own steam for more than a quick taster.
My base was The Fladgate Partnership’s hotel The Yeatman in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the left bank of the Douro river (opposite the old town). The location is truly magnificent and, each “terraced,” very generously proportioned room, offers this same stunning view from your very own balcony.
Though it only opened last September, The Yeatman hotel’s restaurant has already bagged a Michelin star (see here). But wine is arguably the greatest draw. While Fladgate’s CEO Adrian Bridge is steadfast and staunch about sticking exclusively to making Port, wearing his The Yeatman hat, the aim is to put both Portugal’s fortified and table wines firmly on the map. To that end, the wine list is reputedly Portugal’s biggest and, if Thursday night’s dinner (see below) was anything to go by, it must also be among its best.
The wine theme continues in each of the 82 rooms, which are partnered with a Portuguese producer whose wines are sold in the (very sharply priced) hotel shop and presented at weekly wine-focused/winemaker dinners every Thursday. In your room, you’ll find a complimentary Port (not necessarily from Fladgate, a half bottle of Dow’s Tawny in mine) plus wine magazines, books and paraphernalia aplenty. And in case you don’t have time to visit the Douro Valley, the lift interior (pictured) offers some compensation!
Yesterday, after I’d finished my tasting, I caught the last buzzy hour or so of their first Christmas Wine Experience. This consumer tasting of over 120 wines attracted 350 wine lovers over the course of the day who got the opportunity to taste and talk with leading winemakers like Luis Pato, Alves de Sousa, Luis Cedeira (Soalheiro) and Jorge Serodio Borges (Wine & Soul/Passadouro). Afterwards, I was invited to a rather special dinner, each course matched to a selection of international wines from iconic producers. Not to be outdone by the wines, notably Chateau d’Yquem 1997, the ingredients (lobster, caviar, Wagyu beef, white truffle) were lavish. The d’Yquem was paired with Ananas dos Acores, by which my dining companions were so taken, they ordered another!
My other dining experiences were somewhat modest in comparison but no less enjoyable. I was very taken with Essência Restaurante for vegetarians (pictured). Packed to the gills, evidently there are more Portuguese vegetarians than I’d realised. Or perhaps it’s just that the food is so good. At any rate, I suspect a rare find for vegetarians. I shall be back, especially since it’s a stone’s throw from the Casa da Música.
Shis, in Foz, enjoys a location to rival The Yeatman (picture to follow). I loved being so close to the chilly, churning, cauldron-like Atlantic while simultaneously feeling so warm and well fed. Sushi and sashimi are the order of the day here and sommelier Sérgio Pereira, who hosted my first day of New Douro tasting (reported here), has an easy, approachable style to sharing his knowledge and opinions on wine.