It’s no secret that Amber and I enjoy our wine, beer, cocktails, and well, basically any hot or cold beverage. A proper pint of Guinness on a wet day in Ireland, the sweet chicory deliciousness of a Vietnamese cafe sua da (black coffee with condensed milk and ice), or an aromatic gin tonic. These past five years exploring the world for food and drink have lead to some tasty drinkable discoveries. Then, we discovered the porro.
A stone’s throw to the north of Girona, the Emporda wine region has a long history dating back to the 5th Century BC and the Phoenicians. Influenced by the Greeks and the Romans, today the region produces some of the best wines you’ve never heard of. Of course, it’s possible to drink Emporda wine and simply pour it into a glass. Or, it’s possible to be a bit more adventurous and use my new favorite drinking vessel: the porro.
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What is a Porro
Picture a glass bottle, bulbous on the bottom, and narrowing at the top, with a small spout sticking out from one side, which contains an entire 750ml bottle of red wine. Instead of pouring the wine into a glass, the wine is drunk directly from the porro itself. But, it’s not like just drinking straight from a wine bottle. There is an art to it. It’s necessary to pour the wine from the porro directly into the mouth. The goal is to lift the bottle higher and higher and farther and farther from the mouth, without making a mess. It’s something that is taught to Catalans at a very young age. I’m playing catch up, by learning this new trick in my 40’s.
The porró (in Catalan, with the accent on the “o”) or porron (in Spanish) is a traditional glass vessel found in parts of Spain including Catalunya. Some say it’s a cross between a bottle and a watering can. Frankly, I’m not sure what it looks similar to. Almost exclusively used to drink wine, including cava, the porro replaced traditional “bota bags.” Think Argentine gauchos drinking wine from a leather bag. Initially, the porro, or bota bags, were used to share wine in a group while maintaining good hygiene. Whatever their initial purpose, there’s nothing quite like the feel of successfully drinking from one.
What It’s Like Drinking From a Porró
Of course, I’m nervous as I start. I hold the porro inches from my face, with my head tilted back, and my mouth wide open. As I begin to lift the bottle higher over my head, while still angling it forward, I’m starring at the world’s tiniest opening. Every time I’ve done this, it’s always during the drinking process that I try to remember whether I am wearing white, or a light color. And, wondering what will happen when I spill.
As the wine inches closer to the tiny opening, doubt and confusion always kick in. Should I speed up or slow down? Before I can make a decision, the wine reaches the opening and a tiny stream of grape goodness begins to fall towards my mouth. As the stream continues to cascade ever closer, two things have hopefully happened. I’ve pushed my torso out of the way and I’ve opened my mouth as wide as possible. Assuming I’ve successfully completed both of these tasks, that steady stream of wine makes it into my mouth, and I feel like I’ve completed a successful porro experience.
My Porro Experiences
Earlier this year, Amber and I sat down for a typical three-course lunch outside the quaint town of Santa Pau towards the Pyrenees. We ordered wine, as we always do. The server placed this strange looking glass vessel at the table. Being the slower of the two, it took me a little longer to realize that this glass vessel was, in fact, a porro. We tested a porro for the first time two years ago but had not tried it since.
Not wanting to be the American fool who makes an ass of himself, I waited to see if any of the other restaurant guests drank directly from the porro. Not seeing a single person, tourist or local, drinking from the porro, I followed suit. I poured the wine from the porro into our glasses while Amber took video of this riveting content.
Later that day, I shared the video on Facebook and the reaction wasn’t what I expected. Essentially I was called out for NOT drinking from the porro. No explanation of why NOBODY in the restaurant was drinking from the porro but I should have. It was all in good fun, but I realized that I had to redeem myself and silence those critics.
Fast forward a couple weeks and the opportunity to redeem myself presented in the most unusual way. Visiting the Mas Marce dairy farm, Amber and I were treated to an amazing tasting of all their dairy products. This being Catalunya, it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy some wine at ten in the morning. Our host from Mas Marce had conveniently filled a porro with local wine. I jumped at the opportunity to try it.
Unlike back in Santa Pau, my porro attempt at the dairy wasn’t in the middle of a crowded restaurant. I don’t think the nearby sheep cared in the very least at what I was doing. With porro in hand and a few napkins, we stepped outside so if I spilled I wouldn’t make a mess. I was redeemed, or so I thought. Although one friend presented me with the title of “Ambassador Top Level” to Costa Brava, one critic (who shall remain nameless) said that I did ok, but that I was supposed to finish the entire porro!!!! What? Not going to happen.
I tried the porro one more time, at our friend’s house in Tamariu. This time we tried it with cava, which was interesting because it sort of tickled a bit. But, it was also a lot less stress because if I spilled, I at least spilled white instead of red. At this point, I felt like an expert. Maybe I got a little cocky.
Drinking From a Porro – What Not To Do
I walked into my next porro experience with my title of “Ambassador Top Level.” We joined up with other travel influencers a couple weeks later for dinner. At the request of our Catalan friends, I once again attempted the porro and quickly experienced the flip slide of a successful porro, spilling a good deal of red wine on myself. Thankfully there were only 8 or 9 people filming me. No pressure.
What I learned is this:
1) Don’t try being the first to drink from a fresh porro. It’s filled too much for amateurs.
2) When your friends are yelling at you “higher, higher,” really you want is to pull it straight away from you, not higher in the air, which means tilting your wrist until the wine comes out the top as well.
Basically, don’t do what I did.