Handsomely situated overlooking the Iberian Peninsula’s Duoro River in Porto, right across the Ponte Luis, is the port wine cellar of Burmester that was started by Henry Burmester and John Nash-- a family with German roots --in 1780.
The company has since changed hands, with the present owner, Sogevinus, purchasing these beautiful “duoro profundo” cellars in 2005.
The name Burmester comes from the German word “Burgmeester,” meaning “mayor.”
Port wine is quite strong, and is seldom drunk the first thing in the morning but that’s exactly what I did, at 10:00 a.m. one sunny day (illogical, but wonderful!). The potent wine comes in an array of gem-like colors, from a fine, deep ruby red to a gorgeous amber.
Inside the port cave, the temperatures are cool and the smooth cobblestones beneath my feet feel like the inside of a refrigerator. Isabella, our group guide, shows us the giant rusted barrels big enough to fit several horses, and the place where the port wine ages.
Gradations include: Fine ruby, Vintage, Tawny, and a Reserve tawny, all with varying degrees of alcohol content but ranging from 19-25%! A 40-year-old Tawny tasted of oak, honey, stone fruit and spices, and is now a favorite. There are some port wines that are up to 50 years old, and are labeled appropriately as “Vintage.” It’s as quaint as it gets.
I had not learned to properly appreciate port wines but after having tasted them, and discovered that the terraced Duoro wine region is a UNESCO World Heritage site demarcated in 1756, I have a new-found respect for these sweeter-than-honey dessert wines, which will leave you singing at the table or hugging your friends (both, not bad options).
The cellar is open daily from April – October, and the guided tours are a must.