Are we taking communion? No. We are sampling the port at Newman’s Wine Vaults and learning the interesting story about how a British port merchant came to establish a thriving business in St. John’s Newfoundland. My husband Dave likes to have a small glass of port before going to bed. On this trip he’s been getting the rest of us to join him in the practice. So it seemed a perfect fit for our group to take a tour of Newman’s Wine Vaults located on the St. John’s Harbor. Our informative guides told us that port came to Newfoundland by accident.
In 1679 a ship loaded with port wine and owned by the Newman Trading Company left Portugal for London. It was chased by pirates. To escape the captain ventured out into the Atlantic. Storms drove the ship so far off course it landed up in Newfoundland. The captain decided it was safest to spend the winter there. The ship’s cargo of port was stored in caves in the hills near St. John’s. The following spring when the ship finally landed in England it was discovered the port which had wintered in Newfoundland had a wonderful bouquet, smoothness and flavor it had never had before. So the Newman trading company decided to build wine vaults in St. John’s and always age their port in Newfoundland. They did that for the next 250 years.
We learned that a real port connoisseur uses only their nose to tell the difference between various kinds of port and its quality. At the Newman vaults they’ve set up a sniffing challenge to see how good visitors are at distinguishing various scents.Our guide told us this old ladder helps us understand the origin of the phrase “roll out the barrel” which became the title of a popular song. Sailors used this ladder to ‘roll the barrels’ of port wine off their boat.
Our guide showed us many different kinds of port. We bought a couple of bottles to enjoy during our stay.
Port with the Newman’s label is only sold in Newfoundland.
PS Our traveling group has now taken to using the letters SYP (sip your port) as a retort or reply in different situations. For example if someone complains we might say, “Oh go SYP.” My cousin Lynne came up with a new meaning for the letters SYP when she hiked a very scary trail on Signal Hill but I’ll leave her interpretation up to your imagination.