No trip to Porto is complete without a visit to one of the wine caves of Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from the city's historic Ribeira neighborhood. Many of the port wine lodges have been in business for centuries, and most offer tastings and tours.
My husband and I learned to tell our tawnies from our rubies at Companhia Real de Velha. There, we enjoyed the very professional tour and tasting, and a chance to visit the company's museum cellar.
Entrance to the cobweb-draped museum (on Vintage and VIP tours only) is reason enough to visit the Real de Velho lodge. In this trove of bottled vintage port some of the wine has been bottle-aging more than a century, contents just waiting for some adventurous spirit with deep pockets to place an order for a special occasion.
The company was founded in 1756 under royal order by the Marquis of Pombal, and is still Portuguese-owned and managed. Wine aged here is produced from the company's northern Douro vineyards planted 120 kilometers upriver from Porto. In Gaia, informative tours are conducted regularly, in several languages.
Most tourists take the Vintage tour, which, for €7.50, includes a tasting of three ports--extra dry white, a ten-year tawny and a 20-year tawny, and entrance to the museum cellar. I found the video a bit sluggish, but can highly recommend the tour and tasting!
We took a taxi to Companhia Real de Velho. However, the lodge is accessible via public transportation and the city's tourist train.