Text Ilkka Sirén
A couple of months ago while having a vacation in Greece I received a letter. A letter signed by Mr. George Sandeman. A letter which was somewhat unexpected. It said I was to be knighted as a Cavaleiro da Confraria do Vinho do Porto. Ho…ly…sh*t!
Problem number one: I need to find a good tux. And by a good tux, I mean a proper tux. Think James Bond. The event was set to take place in Porto in June, just a day before the summer solstice. Considering that is the busiest wedding time in Finland so good rental tuxes can be a bit hard to come by. Yes, a rental tux. Who actually owns one?! Well anyhow, it’s a huge honour just to be considered by the Confraria let alone accepted. So without a moments hesitation I booked my flights with my family to Portugal.
When the day of the enthronement actually arrived it was well over +30°C in Porto. Unusual weather even for Porto. Tourists flocked in the Ribeira, youngsters were jumping from the Dom Luís I bridge and dozens of Super Bock pop-up bars were being built all over the city in preparation for the São João festival. As a Finn I’m not allowed to complain about hot weather but wearing a tux in that heat nearly killed me. Luckily it was a short downhill walk from our place to Palácio da Bolsa where the ceremony was to take place.
The ceremony itself was very distinguished. Red carpets, evening gowns, cloaks, flags, big black hats with dangling ribbons and decorated sceptres that would make even Gandalf himself jealous. When all the soon-to-be confrades were seated I was among the first ones to be inaugurated. I was called by the Fiel das Usancas to the stage where Mr. Sandeman, the Confrarias chancellor, placed a green and red ribbon around my neck with a traditional 17th century port wine tasting cup tambuladeira hanging from it. After a picture was taken, I signed the Book of Honour and the chancellor handed me a diploma. I walked off the stage happy and extremely dehydrated. Speeches were made and the whole Palácio da Bolsa toasted the new confrades with a glass of port wine. It was tasty but to be honest I would have given my glass and the hand holding it for a big glass of cold water.
After the ceremony the new and the old confrades marched to the Alfândega escorted by cavalry from Portugal’s National Guard together with a brass band. Lots of people were on the streets watching the parade. I felt like I was in some sort of wine Olympics and I just won the grand prize. At this point the avecs joined the confrades and proceeded to a terrace just next to the river. The sunset was beautiful, as was my dinner companion and the chilled glass of white port never tasted better.
The evening continued with good food, great company and fantastic wines. I’m not a big fan of formal dinners but I actually really had some fun. After a handful of courses and way too many glasses of wine it was time to call it a night. It was a long, hot and definitely one of the most memorable days of my life. What made it extra special was that I had the opportunity to share it with my family who have supported me in all my escapades to Portugal over the years.
Then I had a final sip of the port and disappeared into the warm night of Porto like a true Port Wine Knight, to relief the babysitter.