Situated on the south bank of the Douro River, the 55,000sq m complex – which opened at the end of July with more automatic doors than originally planned to comply with new social-distancing guidelines – also includes a wine school, several retail shops, an exhibition space, an event space, and impressive views of the Douro River and the metal-arched Dom Luís I Bridge, which links the port wine houses of Vila Nova de Gaia with downtown Porto.
WOW promotes the history and “magic” of Portuguese wine and the cork industry in three of the six museum experiences, with the Wine Experience, Planet Cork and the Bridge Collection highlighting “the wonderful marriage between wine, cork, and glass”.
WOW CEO Adrian Bridge (below) says: “If visitors can go away with their eyes opened a little bit, then I hope it will be beneficial to them.”
The wine experiences
Wine ExperiencePorto already has several centres telling the story of Port. This museum aims to demystify all the country’s wines, including those from Madeira and the Azores. Visitors can learn about soils, climate, grape varieties, and the winemaking processes. Visitors are also invited to experience wine “using vision, smell, palate, ritual, friendship, and the celebration of moments”.
Planet CorkAt Planet Cork – an experience developed in collaboration with cork producer Corticeira Amorim – visitors are greeted by a stunning replica of a giant cork tree (above). The experience is fully interactive and invites the discovery of the most diverse uses of cork, including a catwalk showcasing different fashion styles using the highly sustainable material.
The Bridge CollectionThe man behind the attraction, Adrian Bridge, owns a collection of highly valued wine glasses. In total, there are more than 1,000 glasses on display, some of which date back to 7,000 BC. Adrian’s collection remains one of the most comprehensive private collections of drinking vessels in the world, and beautifully expresses the history and customs associated with the drink.
The other experiencesThe other experiences include the Porto Region Across The Ages, the Porto Fashion & Fabric Museum and The Chocolate Story (above) – which includes a real chocolate factory.
The new museum was built in partnership with The Fladgate Partnership, owner of Port brands Taylor’s, Croft, Fonseca and Krohn, Porto hotels The Yeatman and Infante Sagres, and the Vintage House Hotel in Pinhão, close to the 500ha of vineyards that the group also owns.
Bridge, who had the idea seven years ago, says the goal of the project – one of the largest tourism projects to launch in Europe this year – is “to help define Porto as a cultural destination, telling the story not only of wine for which the city is world famous, but also of the city, its people and their adventures across the ages”.
He says it is also a display of confidence in wine-related tourism in the country. “Maybe there'll be a slowdown,” he commented, “but we’re a 328-year-old business; we understand long term. For now, let’s do our best.”