Douro Wine Tasting at Quinta do Bomfim

The sunlight pouring into the glass-walled tasting room allowed me to fully appreciate the subtle differences in colour between my three varieties of port wine.  With varying ages, vintages, aromas and flavours, it was hard to choose a favourite, although the 10-year-old tawny won in the end. The setting for this wine tasting, with the magnificent Douro River below and the stripes of terraced vineyards on the slopes opposite, enhances the pleasure. This is how a Douro wine tasting at Quinta do Bomfim ends.

It begins in a beamed reception area decorated with photographs and information about one the Douro wine region’s most influential families, the Symingtons. Their connection to the port wine industry days back 14 generations and the family have been making wine in the Douro since 1882. They own well-known brands including Cockburn’s, Warre’s, Graham’s and Dow’s, which scored 100 points for its 2007 Vintage Port from Wine Spectator.

Needless to say, this isn’t one of the wines included in the standard tasting but you can choose which wines you’d like to try from an extensive menu in reception before the tour begins. By the time you reach the tasting room, your selected wines will be waiting for you.

Quinta do Bomfim is one of 27 quintas owned by the Symington family and the original buildings and grounds have been beautifully renovated to enable the public to appreciate their history and wines. You’ll get to know more about the family as you enter the main building and see artefacts and extracts of documents that offer an insight into the details of running a winery back in the 19th century. This dose of history contrasts with the modern interior architecture and shiny stainless steel tanks where the grapes are deposited for crushing and fermentation.

In these surroundings, the tour continues with a short video in which the Symingtons themselves explain how they select and control the grape vines at every stage of the cultivation and harvest process and then go on to ensure that their wines are of consistently high quality.

Apart from the actual wine tasting, the highlight of the tour is the visit to the cellars. In contrast to the modern fermentation room, this building is impressive for its heavy wooden beams and rafters and the rows of wooden casks lined up below. The aroma of aging port wine pervades the space.

At this point, the passionate guide will exercise their extensive vocabulary to describe in sensuous terms the differences between white, tawny and ruby wines and their respective varieties as well as the ideal food pairings to bring out the flavours.

Having fully whetted your appetite, the tour ends in the bright, spacious tasting room with enviable views. As you sip your wines, you can watch traditional wooden rabelo boats glide up and down the Douro River in front of the winery, their cargo these days being people, not wine barrels.