Stomping with the Symingtons

Roger Morris spends a week in Portugal during the port harvest

For generations, ports — those marvelous end-of-the-meal fortified wines — have been produced in Portugal’s Douro Valley. Some of them are bottled young when they are big, bold, and fruity, and the best of these are declared by their producers as vintage port, identified by the year that the grapes were picked. These are aged in the bottle. Other ports are aged in large wooden vats where they become rounded, more amber in color, and very smooth and nutty; the best of these are called aged tawny port.

See Stomping with the Symingtons Slideshow

In many ways, port is made the way it was a century ago. For example, grapes for many of the best vintage ports are still stomped — tread is the word they use — by human feet. Yet much has changed, for the better, with advanced extraction, fermentation, and aging methods.

One of the best and most famous port enterprises is that of the Symington family, which owns such legendary brands as Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Dow’s, Warre’s, and Quinta do Vesuvio. What could be more intriguing than an invitation from the Symingtons to spend a week with them during harvest? It won’t be my first harvest in the Douro, but I looking forward to see some historic estates. I hop on a plane one night in Philadelphia, and the next morning I am in Portugal.

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Roger Morris is a Special Contributor at The Daily Meal. View more of his work on his website: