port, lessons, tasting, delivery, stockI have just enjoyed two weeks in Portugal with my wife and elder daughter where we learnt first-hand three valuable lessons.

We spent three days in Vila Nova de Gaia, the town that has been the centre of the port industry for centuries. Our first port lodge tour was at Calem’s, one of the smaller companies. The reception area was welcoming and the tour, which cost €4, was informative with a guide who spoke eloquently about the history of port and how it is produced. The highlight of the tour was when the guide talked about the types and styles of port and how long each would stay drinkable once opened, but this was let down by the poor quality of the port offered to visitors to taste. For me it was nothing more than alcohol enriched sugar water. Very disappointing.

The next day we tried Taylor’s port lodge, a brand that we have stocked in the past. The tour is free with just the steep climb up from the riverfront as a ‘cost’, but the reward was worth the effort. The tour included many of the facts that were told to us the previous day, but we were also told that Taylor’s has been family owned since its beginnings more than 300 years ago. After the tour of the lodge we were offered 3 ports to taste, a ruby, a tawny and their Late Bottled Vintage, much better than the offering at Calem’s.

Finally we visited Grahams, another port lodge where one pays for the tour and the tasting. The tour of the lodge was followed by an equally interesting tasting as they offer three levels of quality of wine, entry level, ruby and tawny. As there were 3 of us we tried all that was on offer.

The lessons I took from these 3 visits were:

  1. Be knowledgeable about what we stock, particularly in the more specialist areas of our business like wine or specialist magazines.
  2. Don’t under deliver, as this will always leave disappointment.
  3. Offer tastings; this year we have offered local wine, beer and cheese, but next March when the new season local tomatoes arrive we will look to have some available for tasting.