A visit to the city of Port (sometimes called Oporto in Portugal) and Gaia, its sister city directly across the river, is more than just a beautiful must-see European destination. For Port wine lovers it’s the mecca; an essential pilgrimage to the birthplace of the deliciously rich, sweet wine fortified with Brandy. One of the oldest, and arguably most influential Port Houses, is that of Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman (more widely referred to as Taylor’s) which celebrates its 330th anniversary this year.
Located on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river, Taylor’s sits alongside several of the Houses (also known as Lodges) that have put Port on the world wine map.
Names such as Graham’s, Kopke and Cockburn’s that reflect the fact that nearly all the original Port shippers were from the United Kingdom.
Founded in 1692 by Job Bearsley, the Taylor name is derived from Joseph Taylor who helped expand the business in the 1800s. Wine merchant John Fladgate became a partner in 1836, and two years later he partnered with Morgan Yeatman to form Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman.
Taylor’s has not only built its reputation on more than 3 centuries of age worthy Vintage Ports, but they have also genuinely earned the right to call themselves ‘pioneers’.
They were the first Port wine merchant to visit the Douro Valley working directly with estates to source their fruit rather than deal with brokers. And, they were the first Port wine shipper to buy an estate in the Douro which was a particularly risky move given that phylloxera had decimated much of the Valley around that time.
Today, Taylor’s has 3 estates in the upper Douro Valley which is widely considered the best part of the region to grow grapes for Port: Quinta de Vargellas, Quinta de Terra Feita, and Quinta de Junco. It was at Quinta de Vargellas where they claimed another first by planting the terraces to single varieties rather than the traditional method of planting multiple varieties together.
As a result, they became the first Port house to produce single estate vintage Port which transformed the region’s viticultural practices.
Taylor’s also created the Late Bottle Vintage (LBV) category of Ports that is still used today and been adopted by many of its competitors. LBV Ports are Reserve Ruby Ports consisting of grapes used from a single vintage whereas Ruby and Reserve Ruby are a blend of different vintages. Finally, though likely not the end of their innovation, Taylor’s was also the first Port house to produce dry white Port.
Our first visit to Port meant there really was only one place we should start. With such a long history and profound impact on the region, a tour at Taylor’s is a walking history lesson from start to finish. You learn about the history of arguably the most famous Port house of all, the sustainable viticulture practices at their vineyards, how Port is made, and finish off the tour with a tasting of a few of their select wines including the dry white Port and an LBV.
If you’re lucky enough you might also witness the “opening by fire” demonstration of how vintage ports were traditionally opened using hot tongs (see video below).
If your budget allows, we highly recommend a stay at the Yeatman Hotel, conveniently located right across the street from Taylor’s Port House. Owned by the same group, it’s not just a hotel, it’s a wine hotel, complete with individually decorated rooms paying homage to Port’s history, an extensive cellar featuring Portuguese wines, a Michelin-rated restaurant, and even a world-class spa with wine-themed treatments.
After the incredible introduction at Taylor’s we were well prepared for the rest of our Portuguese AdVINEture filled with fascinating history, the stunning beauty of Port, Gaia and the Douro Valley, all perfectly paired with lots of tasting ‘research’. One thing that became abundantly clear is that Portugal is a must-visit for any wine lover whether a Port fan or not. You can be certain that our first trip to this very underrated wine region definitely won’t be our last.
Taylor Fladgate Port
Rua do Choupelo, nº 250
4400-088 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal