VISITORS TO the Newman Wine Vaults traverse an eerie, candle-lit corridor, with oak barrels stacked against musty stone walls and the aroma of wine filling 200- year-old rooms. Legend has it that in 1679, a ship en route to Europe laden with a cargo of port wine was blown off course and chased by pirates. With winter approaching, the captain sought shelter in St. John’s Harbour and stored his precious wine in nearby caves. Come spring, the wine was retrieved and found to have improved in taste. The Newman company, owners of the wine, decided to make aging it in the cold, misty clime of St. John’s a regular practice. Ships transported the wine from Portugal, to be aged in vaults at St. John’s, and then to England for sale, a practice that continued for more than two centuries. Today, visitors to this provincial historic site ( can tour the vaults, learn about their colourful history and, of course, sample some port.