There was a time in history, maybe 40 years or so ago, when one mentioned a crusty bottle of well-aged “Old Burgundy” with a particular reverence. You don’t hear much about properly aged wines these days, like you don’t hear about “increasing the standard of living” or “power to the people.”
It’s a time that’s past, but you can relive it. Yes, there is a musty cellar with crud-covered bottles, encrusted with age and with such a delicate constitution of contents that disallows even the thought of the feather duster. You can visit it for a small sum.
I’m talking Real Companhia Velha which sits apart—to the north and inland—from the port houses that line the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. The Real in the name of the corporation indicates a link to royalty, which is found in the bloodline of this port house, “The Real Companhia Velha was founded by Royal Charter of The King D. José I, under the auspices of His Prime Minister, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Mello, Count de Oeiras and Marquis de Pombal.”
So how do you get this cobwebby tour, a tour that sets itself apart from all the others in Vila Nova de Gaia? First you make it to Real Companhia Velha, which not every cabbie in Porto knows how to get to. Ours had to make a call or two, but deducted some of the extra miles traveled by the time we arrived at the door.
Ask for the Vintage Tour. At the time of writing this set you back 7.50 euro. It’s best to reserve so you can get the tour in a language you can actually comprehend.
You’ll see a movie which is rather ho-hum. Then comes the time they drag you to the cellars, and suddenly you’re immersed this dark little world of unique wine. After you poke around a bit amongst the hoary bottles, you’ll come back to the light to taste some old Ports—not as old as all you’ll see and hear about, but old enough to let you know what you’ve missed all these years of limiting yourself to under $30 for a bottle of port.
Essential Travel Information for Real Companhia Velha Tours
Contact info is here
Rua Azevedo Magalhães 314
4430-022 Vila Nova de Gaia
There are wines you can buy at the end of the tour and tasting, but they don’t bug you to buy anything, a very nice touch. The point of the place is to introduce you to the fine ports and make you familiar with the wines.