Inside World Of Wine, Portugal’s latest tourist destination

World of Wine (WOW), one of the biggest tourist attractions to launch in Europe this year, made its debut last month in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal. True to its name, the project is a wine lover’s dream, and its location is already in an area that attracts oenophiles from all over the world every year. Vila Nova de Gaia, which is in the Porto district, is historically a port wine town and is home to famous vineyards for the production of fortified wine.

After five years of development and an investment of $117 million, WOW, which overlooks Porto and the Douro River, opened on July 31. The creation of the new project was led by founder and CEO Adrian Bridge, head of the Fladgate Partnership, a holding company. which owns well-known Port wine brands such as Krohn and Fonseca and luxury hotels such as the Yeatman in Porto and the Vintage House in the Douro Valley.

Spanning over 420,000 square feet of converted and restored wine cellars, WOW was created to “help define Porto as a cultural destination through engaging educational experiences,” Bridge said in a press release.

The wine-focused resort offers tourists several museum experiences that tell “the story not just of wine” but also of “the city, its people, and their adventures through the ages,” Bridge said.

The five currently available are:

  • The Wine Experience, which explains how wine is made and how factors such as climate and grape variety affect production, and gives an overview of Portugal’s wine regions
  • The Region of Porto through the Ages (PRATA), which looks at the history, culture and people of Porto
  • Planet Cork, which allows visitors to explore the cork industry (According to the WOW website, Portugal is the largest cork producing country in the world with over 50% of global production.)
  • The Chocolate Story, a journey into the world of chocolate
  • The Bridge Collection – 9,000 Years of Drinking, an exhibition of the passage of human history through the evolution of drinking vessels from Bridge’s personal collection

Each experience lasts around two hours and costs €15 (around $18) per adult, except for the Bridge Collection, which costs €10 (around $12) per adult. There’s discounted entry for children, students, and groups as well as multi-experience packages.

Later this year, WOW will launch its sixth experience, the Fashion & Fabric Museum (an exhibition of the textile, fashion and jewelery industry in Portugal), as well as the WOW Wine School, which will host a variety of days and several days. Portuguese wine and gastronomy workshops in partnership with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.

The cultural destination also offers a host of dining options for visitors. In the central square, guests can head to 1828 for fine dining; Angel’s Share for wine, other beverages and appetizers; Root & Vine for vegetarian dishes; and Golden Catch for seafood.

Patrons looking for a casual meal can stop by Suspiro, a dessert cafe; Lemon Plaza, a take-out place; and VP, a traditional Portuguese cuisine bistro. WOW also houses event spaces, temporary exhibition space and retail outlets as additional attractions.

The Fladgate partnership expects WOW to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to Porto each year. The resort is currently open to the public, but access is only available to tourists from a number of countries, given Portugal’s travel restrictions.

Since August 24, Portugal has been open to visitors from EU and Schengen countries and Australia, Canada, China, South Korea, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. Flights between Portugal and other countries are only allowed for essential travel and passengers must present a negative test for Covid-19 within 72 hours before departure.

Elisha A. Tilghman