The SOMM Journal

April / May 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 70 of 112

70 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2015 { special section: port } The Portuguese Allure WINING AND DINING THE AMERICAN MARKET by David Vogels CONSIDERING THAT PORT HAS THE reputation as one of the world's stodgiest alcoholic beverages, it seems something of a paradox that the DOC Douro/Porto would now be one of the world's trendiest wine regions. Apart from the longstanding reputation of the area's age-worthy forti- fied beverages, however, its current popu- larity is being driven by two major factors: an explosion in quality of red table wines and an accompanying boom in enotourism. The universally lauded 2011 vintage has only confirmed an international recogni- tion that has been growing for more than a decade. By placing three of the top four honorees in Wine Spectator's most recent Top 100—including two 2011 Douro table wines, the Prats + Symington Chryseia and the Quinta do Vale Meão—the region has certainly caught the attention of American consumers. According to ViniPortugal, the United States is now the country's fourth- largest export market in terms of value (following only France, Angola and the U.K.), with U.S. export volume up 12% in 2014 over the previous year. But American enophiles are not only buying Douro wines at their local retailers and restaurants, they are visiting Portugal in record numbers. A favorable euro- exchange rate and relatively depressed prices have made tourism even more attractive, and the Portuguese are seek- ing to capitalize—both in the twin cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, historic home of the Port lodges, and in the scenic but hard-to-reach Douro Valley, where the grapes are grown. In the City At The Yeatman hotel in Vila Nova de Gaia, you can lie in bed in any guestroom (all 82 face the same direction) and look over your balcony to see the view that has launched a million postcards: the historic wine boats, or rabelos, lining the Douro riverfront, topped by a festively lit Ponte Dona Maria, Gustave Eiffel's 1877 railway bridge to Porto. The Yeatman, built by the Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman group on land acquired through its 2001 purchase of Croft, opened in August 2010, highlight- ing a burst of luxury-hotel construction throughout the metropolitan area. "Six to ten three-to-five-star hotels have opened over the last four or five years," says Roy Hersh, wine writer, SOMM Journal contributor (see p. 66) and long- time proprietor of the definitive For the Love of Port website, who visits the region several times a year. "There's been a ton of renovation—a lot of abandoned buildings have been fixed up even while Portugal is in pretty difficult times economically." Porto was voted Best European Destination in 2014 by European travel- ers, echoing the views of many guide- books. Based on figures from the Tourism Department of the Porto City Council, total overnight visits to Porto and northern Portugal were up 9.3% between January and November 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. The United States was eighth on the list by country, trailing only other European nations and Brazil. In 2012, more than 75 million Americans visited Portugal. Although the British-dominated Port trade has been critical to the region's economic welfare for centuries, the recent growth in tourism is also at least partly wine-driven. The Yeatman opened with an entire floor devoted to meeting rooms and a 27,000-bottle cellar. Every guestroom is Traditional Port rabelos on the Cais de Gaia, with the Ponte Dona Maria in the background. PHOTO COUTESY OF THE YEATMAN HOTEL A view of Porto and the Douro River.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - April / May 2015