Porto has long thrived on the production of its namesake wine. Oenophiles come from around the globe to wander the cobblestone streets of Portugal’s second-largest city in search of historic cellars or to book tasting cruises up the Douro River. Now, the Porto metro area is modernizing its most famous draw, with a new cultural district that has visitors and locals alike saying “saúde.”
The World of Wine (WOW) debuted last summer in Vila Nova da Gaia following five years of development and a $125 million investment by The Fladgate Partnership, the company behind such Port brands as Taylor’s and Fonseca.
The 13.5-acre district boasts restored wine cellars, six museums, nine restaurants and bars, multiple exhibition spaces, and a wine school. All arrayed around a central square perched on a hill on the south side of the Douro, with views of the river and the neighborhood of Ribeira, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
WOW’s signature attraction is its Wine Experience, which is made up of multisensory installations and exhibits covering the beverage’s history and methods of production. Visitors can follow their virtual tasting tour with a literal one at the on-site Angel’s Share bar.
“The Wine Experience is about peeling back layers of information,” says The Fladgate Partnership CEO Adrian Bridge. “It takes people through the journey of wine production, finishing with how to taste properly. Everything you’ve ever wondered about wine but never dared to ask is in one place. Instead of overcomplicating the topic, we demystify wine in a fun way.”
As central as wine is to the identity of this city and region, WOW offers plenty to enjoy after you’ve drained your glass. Among the sights to visit are the Porto Region Across the Ages (PRATA) museum, which tracks the city’s culture and history back to the Roman period; Planet Cork, which tells how Portugal became the world’s largest producer of the bark-based material; and The Chocolate Story exhibit, because what would a glass of port be without a dessert pairing? There’s even a Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum (careful not to spill…).
“WOW is not just a great wine experience,” Bridge says. “It’s about multiple layers of culture and history. We’ve created this cultural district, anchored by wine, for our hometown.”