The history of port wine takes place before my eyes and when I look at the red tiled roofs, the cathedral with its Gothic towers or the romantic front of houses at the foot of the Douro River, it might as well be the year 1883. At that time, the Yeatman family laid the foundation for the port wine trade, which still exists today and has even expanded. Four of the most important port houses are now family-owned, as is The Yeatman wine hotel, which sits on a hillside opposite the famous old town and offers the best view of Porto.
I walk through the impressive lobby and feel transported to a colonial grand hotel. British understatement meets the art and staging of wine and its origins. The Yeatman is like a museum with a thousand accessories related to the grape juice, such as the sculpture of Bacchus in the beautiful staircase. But it’s not just the common areas that are dedicated to wine; the rooms and suites have also been customized by one of the many wine partners.
Each floor contains its own art exhibit, so I stroll along the historic maps from the Douro Valley to my room, opening the curtains first. My host Claire Aukett, marketing manager at The Yeatman, has kept her word, as there are only great views in the house, and the Douro River, the old town, and the distinctive steel framework of the Dom Luis Bridge present themselves to me like an animated mural. If you’d rather look out at the city directly from the bathtub, all you have to do is open the shutters from the bathroom to the bed to visually zoom in to the old town. I enjoy my time in a reading chair, flipping through the first decade of the Yeatman Hotel, which is available as an opulent coffee table book in every room. With all the wine recommendations and food pictures, I’m starting to get hungry, so I pay a visit to the hotel’s own Orangerie on the 8th floor just a little later.
Chef Ricardo Costa is on his way to his third Michelin star and I have the honor of tasting and experiencing some of the culinary art. We start with crispy shallots and foie gras, move on to grilled stingray wing, which seamlessly transitions into cod and olive-crusted lamb. As a finale, a French toast of brioche awaits me that is clearly one of the best that has ever been allowed to enrapture my palate. The evening is accompanied by perfectly matched wines from the pool of 100 regular partners who work closely with the hotel. Plus the stylish surroundings of the Orangerie and the view of the old town, glistening magnificently in the last rays of the sun.
No idea how Claire managed it, but it feels like the SPA area is exclusively at my disposal today. Since it’s still a bit cold for the outdoor pool, I start my wellness program in the steam bath and sauna before recovering from the city tour in the Roman bath. Then a shower experience with built-in lightshow and a few relaxing laps in the indoor infinity pool with a view of all the essentials that Porto has to offer.
Porto’s old town is so diverse that it is hard to describe it with words and pictures, because you always discover new churches, squares, stores or restaurants that you want to explore. I limit myself first to a walk at the famous Cais da Ribeira and watch the boats that leave here for a river cruise on the Douro. Then I´m off to the impressive Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar on the Teleférico de Gaia, a cable car that runs along the harbor promenade, before I devote myself once again to the world of wine in the brand-new WoW Museum.
WoW is not only the perfect expression for the interactive experience of the 7 worlds below the Yeatman Hotel, but also the synonym for World of Wine. Marketing Manager Maria Delamain greets me at the front desk and leaves me with the agony of choosing 2 out of 7 museums and 1 out of 12 restaurants for the afternoon and evening. I am almost overwhelmed, but in the spirit of the Yeatman family, I decide for the Wine Experience, in which I learn everything about viticulture in the Douro Valley.
The Pink Palace is simply extraordinary, dedicated to the history of rosé wines and leading visitors into a slightly crazy world. Again and again, you are invited to a glass of rosé and to bizarre photo shoots, so that you end up sitting at a bar in the Wild West and reviewing the tour with a rosé port. The good mood and upbeat feeling spontaneously remind me of my visit to the ABBA Museum in Stockholm, so I’m already looking forward to my finale at the T&C Restaurant, which treats me to the cuisine of Portugal.
„You can’t go home without a visit to Taylor’s,“ Claire says as I stand in the lobby with my suitcase already packed. I look at my wristwatch, which reads just 11, and wonder if it’s not too early for the first wine of the day. Five minutes later, I’m standing in the barrel cathedral of Porto’s best-known port winery with an audio guide, maneuvering me through Taylor’s history. From the vineyards in the northern Douro Valley, I move on to specialties such as the first dry port called Chip Dry or the Vintage Port, which, once the bottle is opened, must be enjoyed within a day. I look again at the wristwatch, whose hands are approaching 12. Slowly, it’s time for a first port, which is already waiting for me in the tasting room at the end of the tour.
The Yeatman is a wine museum, vantage point, wellness oasis, gourmet palace, retreat and grand hotel all in one. All the while, as a guest, you are immersed in perfect scenery and want to sit, lie, relax, eat or just enjoy the day anywhere at the same time. I say goodbye to my host Claire Aukett for the second time and promise to return to visit the Yeatmans‘ second hotel, Vintage House. There lies the origin of the story, because there, on the steep slopes of the Douro River, grow the grapes that give port its unmistakable character. To be continued …
This article was written at the invitation of The Yeatman Hotel in Porto. Thank you, Claire Aukett, for the great organization.