Port is appreciated worldwide, being famous since the 16th century. Despite being called Port it is not produced in Porto but in the demarcated Douro region about 100 km from Porto. After its production in the Douro, the wine was transported on the Douro river in Rabelo boats to the numerous cellars in Porto where it was left to age in the barrels. A visit to the cellars is mandatory to learn more about the history of Porto and Port wine. The cellars and wine have shaped and defined the history of the city of Porto.
All the main brands of Port wine have cellars open to the public on the south bank of the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia. In this article, we will explore specifically the Cálem Cellars, one of the biggest brands. We have examined everything you need to know to visit the Cálem cellars. We were in no way sponsored by the Cálem cellars and our assessment is based on our personal experience.
Cálem Port Wine was founded in 1859 by António Alves Cálem and has remained in the family for 4 generations. António Cálem was an entrepreneur and adventurer who distinguished himself by exporting Port wine to Brazil. At that time, Port wine was mostly exported to Great Britain. Cálem started by exporting Port wine to Brazil and in return, he received exotic wood that was used in the construction of ships. Hence, the caravel as the Cálem.
Cálem wines are produced in the Cima Corgo area and the high Douro, and are later transported to the cellars where they are aged in vats and barrels. One of the estates where Port Cálem wine is produced is at Quinta de Arnozelo and at the Vinification Center in São Martinho da Anta.
Cálem has a range of Port wines that include White, Tawny, Ruby, and Rosé. The best-selling Port wine produced by Cálem is the range “Os Velhotes” a Tawny, which is the Port wine most consumed by the Portuguese.
In 1998 Calém was sold and became part of the Galician group Sogevinus Sa. A group that has several companies in the wine sector such as Kopke, Quinta da Boavista, Burmester and Barros.
Cálem cellars tour
The Cálem cellars are one of the most visited cellars in Porto. The Cálem Cellars tour includes a visit to the museum about Port wine, the area where the wine is preserved, and a Port wine tasting in the end. Visits are made with a guide who will accompany you throughout the whole visit. The guide explains the process of making and aging Port wine and clarifies any doubts that may arise. There are guided tours in several languages: Portuguese, Spanish, French, and English.
The visit begins at the small Calém Port wine museum. During the visit to the museum, you will learn about the vineyards, the demarcated Douro region, and the different types and characteristics of Port wine. You will also explore Port wine history and the Cálem brand in particular.
The museum is very interactive with photo projections and touch screens that you can explore freely. One of the funniest activities in the museum is an exhibition with various types of Port wine, where you can analyze the different characteristics of the wine such as color and smell. The purpose is to guess which type of Port wine is used each time. The museum, despite being small, is interesting and fun.
After the museum, the visit continues to the winery, where the oak barrels are located where Port is aged. Before visiting the interior of the cellars, there is a projection in the wine barrels with some facts related to the barrels, their construction, size and about the cellars themselves. Then we go to the wine storage area with different types of barrels, barrels and barrels. You are only allowed to visit a small portion of the cellar, so you end up not perceiving the actual size of the cellars. Finally, we go to wine tasting which is done over the cellars in a large room with hundreds of bottles of Port wine.
In the wine tasting section you can taste 2 or 3 types of Port depending on the ticket you bought:
- The standard ticket (14 € adults) includes wines: Cálem Fine White and Cálem Special Reserve Tawny;
- The premium ticket (17 € adults) includes 3 wines: Cálem White & amp; Dry, Cálem Tawny 10 Years Old, and Cálem L.B.V.
During the tasting the guide explains the different characteristics of the wine and the best way to taste the wine.
At the end of the visit, outside the cellars there is a Cálem port wine store where there are dozens of port wines and different varieties and years of production. It is the ideal place to buy a gift or even a souvenir from the visit.
How to visit the Cálem Port Wine Cellars
The easiest way to visit is to buy the ticket directly on the Cálem official website. You can choose the time and language of the visit, the process is very easy. There are different types of tickets with different options such as watching a fado show or wine and cheese tasting.
As previously mentioned, the base price of the visit is 14 € adults, which includes the visit to the cellars and the tasting of 2 wines. Children under 10 do not pay and children aged 11 to 17 pay 50% (6 €). Visits are accessible to people with reduced mobility, and wheelchairs. (2020 prices)
Visiting hours are from 10 am to 7 pm in the summer (May to October) and from 10 am to 6 pm (November to April), the last entry is one hour before closing.
You can also buy a ticket directly at the entrance of the cellars but we do not recommend this option, especially during high season. There are usually many visitors to the cellars and you may be at risk of not getting a place.
Another option is to buy a pack that includes a two-day pass on the tourist bus, a trip on a cruise, and the entry ticket to the Cálem cellars. Getting everything for € 25.50 turns out to be cheaper and an option that is well worth the price.
Calém cellars tour Review
In general, we liked visiting the Cálem cellars and we recommend these cellars to anyone visiting Porto for the first time.
The guide was able to keep the tour interesting and patiently answered all our questions. And they were a lot. As we visited the cellars in an extremely low season, we had few people in the group, which made the visit last longer than the usual 30 minutes.
However, we are sorry that there is no possibility to further explore the winery itself.
The entrance price is similar to the other cellars, around 14 to 18 €, which may seem a little expensive but we need to take into account that it includes a Port wine tasting.
On the south bank of the Douro River, you will find many more cellars, about 15 cellars. Those can also be interesting to visit, but it depends on how much time you have to visit the city.
Other cellars that we suggest visiting are Taylor’s Caves, Ferreira Caves, Real Companhia Velha Caves, Sandeman.
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