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The new wine museum transforming Porto's historic warehouse district

Raise a glass! Europe has opened yet another mega museum dedicated to wine — a mammoth project set to transform Porto’s former wine warehouse district into a new cultural quarter. Plus, three new wine experiences close to home.

Published 15 Sept 2020, 17:02 BST, Updated 18 Nov 2020, 15:17 GMT
World of Wine (WOW) opened in Porto in July, housed in 55,000sq metres of restored port ...

World of Wine (WOW) opened in Porto in July, housed in 55,000sq metres of restored port wine cellars.

Photograph by World of Wine WOW

First came Bordeaux’s Cité du Vin in 2016: a 10-storey temple to wine set on the banks of the Garonne River. This year, Portugal has gone one better; why have a city when you can have the world? Following five years of development, and at a cost of €105m (£95m), World of Wine (WoW) opened in July in Porto, housed in 55,000sq metres of restored port wine cellars. This is one of the largest tourism projects to launch in Europe this year: six immersive museum experiences, five restaurants, plus bars, cafes, event and exhibitions spaces, shops and, to top it all off, a wine school offering one- and multi-day courses focusing on Portuguese viticulture and gastronomy. There are also virtual tours through Portuguese wine production over the ages, and a complete guide to cork — another of the country’s major exports.

Located in Vila Nova de Gaia, a dockside hub for the European wine industry since the 1700s, WoW is laid out around a central, open-air square with views out across Porto’s terracotta roofs and the Douro River. And, as with Bordeaux, this ambitious new opening hopes to gift the city with a fresh new cultural quarter, and the venture tags itself thus (Porto’s ‘New Cultural District’). Slated to join WoW later this year is the Porto Fashion & Fabric museum, housed in an 18th-century building that includes a chapel designed by celebrated Italian artist and architect Nicolau Nasoni, complete with restored frescos. 

Did you know? According to the World Factbook, Portugal was the world’s ninth-largest exporter of wine in 2019, shipping out $920m (£706.5m) worth of the stuff. The UK was 10th, with exports totalling $837m (£642.8m). 

Three new wine experiences to discover in France and England

The road trip
Follow the Vallée de la Gastronomie, a newly launched, 385-mile route through the French regions of Burgundy-Franche-Comté, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur that aims to promote the ‘gastronomic meal of the French’ (a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage category). As well as an assortment of Michelin-starred restaurants and around 200 top French tourist spots, participants get to experience food and wine pairing at truffle grounds, olive orchards and vineyards. 

The staycation
Situated near the pretty villages of Lavenham and Long Melford in the heart of Suffolk’s wine country, Giffords Hall Vineyard — a family-run estate established in the 1970s — is set to open a new barrel hall and winery in a former grain store. Come for the 2016 pinot blanc and stay for a vineyard tour — don’t miss the estate’s herd of Hebridean sheep, which graze around the vines to keep things neat and tidy. 

The museum
One of the grandest mansions in town, Château Perrier, in Épernay, opened 1852 as the magnificent HQ for Champagne producer Perrier-Jouët. It’s been closed since 1998, but after extensive restoration, the house is due to reopen later this autumn as the new Champagne Wine and Regional Archaeology Museum. The building is worth the trip in its own right: a listed monument, each facade has a different architectural style inspired by a famous Parisian building. 

Published in the Sept/Oct 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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