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Terry Sullivan

OffleySummary: Along the cobblestone streets of Vila Nova de Gaia is the Port Lodge Offley, a port producer from the mid-eighteenth century. Tour the large, dark, peaceful caves where port wine ages and taste the ports in the tasting room.

On the patio from our room in the Yeatman Hotel, we could see the port lodge Offley. Early in the morning, just a short walk on cobblestone streets from the Yeatman Hotel, we arrived at Offley. While waiting for our guide, we observed several display cases and informational plaques. We learned that Offley was formed in 1737 by London wine merchant William Offley. The nephew of William Offley, Joseph James Forrester arrived in Porto in 1831 and led the company in new directions. Forrester is a legend in the port wine industry. A plaque gives a timeline of Forrester’s accomplishments until his tragic death on the Douro River when his barco rabelo, wine boat, capsized.

One of Forrester’s accomplishments was the wine map of the Douro Valley. He used his cartography skills to create a detailed survey of the Douro Valley and vineyards. Forrester created two maps, the smaller The Wine District of the Alto-Douro showed the vineyard area. The larger map showed the entire length of the Douro River. The creation of the maps earned Forrester the title of Baron, bestowed in 1855 by King Ferdinand II. Forrester’s name kept coming up at other port lodges we visited.

Maria Graça conducted our tour and port tasting. Maria mentioned that Offley port is made from native grapes grown in the Douro. After three days of fermenting, the fermentation is stopped by adding 70% alcohol to the partially fermented wine. This kills the yeast and preserves the residual sugar at around 100 g/L. The addition of the high alcohol to the wine creates a finished product near the 20% alcohol range.

OffleyAs we walked through the cellars we learned that the facility can hold three million liters of port. Bottling takes place at another facility in Vila Nova de Gaia. We stopped by a 30,250 L wood vat. Maria explained that the winemaking staff would only fill the tank to about the 18,500 L mark. The air above the port helps add oxygen to the port. The largest vat in the cellar had a capacity of 69,000 liters. In addition to the large vats that are used to make ruby ports, we observed smaller casks in the shape of cigars, long on each end and fat in the middle. These smaller wood barrels aged tawny ports.

OffleyMaria spoke about the early way of transporting wine from the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia. Barco rabelo were used to transport barrels of port to the lodge for cellaring. Sometimes these wine boats would have too many barrels placed on them and could meet with devastating outcomes as in the case of Joseph James Forrester. Now many of these old wine boats are docked along the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia to show a connection with the past and perhaps as a bit of marketing. Modern tankers now move the wine from the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia.


OffleyIn the tasting room we tasted five ports. We began with the White Port Barão de Forrester, DOC Porto. The wine was a blend of Malvasia Fina, Códega, Viosinho and Gouveio grapes. This 19.5% alcohol port had a dark amber color and was aged for an average of three years. The aroma offered floral notes and dried fruits. The taste had a very silky mouthfeel and reminded me of golden raisins, honeysuckle and orange blossoms. There was a long fruity finish. Serve this port as an aperitif, a cocktail with club soda, or with salted almonds or appetizers.

Our second port was another white port, this one the Cachucha White Reserve, DOC Porto. Maria told us that Cachucha is a name of a vineyard, and in Portuguese it refers to a sweet girl. The port is a blend of Malvasia Fina, Códega, Viosinho, and Rabigato grapes. The 20% alcohol wine had a dark amber color and was aged an average of seven years in oak casks. The aroma was floral while the velvety taste had orange blossoms, dried apricots and some oak notes. The finish was long. This port can also be served as an aperitif as well as with hors d ́oeuvres and patés.

Our third port was the Rosé Port, DOC Porto, with a beautiful translucent red color. The wine was a blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barroca. Red berry fruits were on the aroma and taste. The taste was also very smooth. The finish was fruit forward. One can serve this 19.5% alcohol port as an aperitif or use the port as a cocktail by adding club soda and an orange peel.

The 2012 Late Bottled Vintage, DOC Porto, was a blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca. This port spent four years in oak barrels prior to bottling. The wine had an opaque dark ruby to black color and had 20.5% alcohol. Dried red fruits were noticed on the aroma, The taste had a silky mouthfeel and highlighted dried cherries. The port had a long fruit aftertaste. Pair this port with chocolate covered cherries or with a book by a fireplace.

OffleyOur final tasting was the 20 Year Old Tawny, DOC Porto. This port was a blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão. The wine had a ruby color with a brown hue and had 20% alcohol. Dried fruit, nuts and spice were noticed on the aroma. The very smooth taste offered dried cherries, dried red plums and baking spices. The long fruity finish yielded to baking spices on the aftertaste. This 20 year old tawny pairs well with several food items. Consider serving it with hors d ́oeuvres, desserts with nuts, chocolate or cheese.

We enjoyed the tour and tasting at Offley. The port house has a long and interesting history; one that would make an engrossing motion picture centered around the adult life of Joseph James Forrester.

Rua do Choupelo 62, 4400-174
Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal



Article written March 2018.


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