Get to Know Portuguese Wine With These Four Perfect Pairings

Posted October 16, 2015

Stacy Brody

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You need to start drinking Portuguese wines. Like now. Try a vinho verde with a light lunch. Or maybe a nice red with dinner tonight. I’ll forgive you if you wait till tomorrow night, but you really shouldn't wait much longer than that.

Portugal is the size of Indiana, with more acreage under vine than California. Blessed with a variety of terroir, from the cool northern mountains to the hot southern plains, Portugal has tons to offer, beyond Port.

Major exports started in the past 30 years, so Portugal is relatively new on the international wine scene. Only after the country emerged from dictatorship and joined the European community did you start to see more Portuguese wines on the shelves. However, the history of winemaking in this region dates back thousands of years. They’ve had a fair bit of practice.

Even more recently, Portugal has come onto the wine scene in a big way - and for more than just Port. The coverage this country has been receiving in national food and wine magazines has been phenomenal.

Which is a beautiful thing. You are learning more and more about Portugal. You read these articles and you’re like, "Huh isn’t that interesting? Honey, what do you think about that? Did you know they make some really tasty wines in Portugal?"

"That’s great honey. Let’s get a bottle of Chianti."

Now, there is nothing wrong with Chianti. I love Chianti as much as this imaginary couple does. But it’s time to try something else, don’t you think?

Recently, Pedro Veloso, Managing Partner for Wines in Motion, a distributor and importer of mainly Portuguese wines, offered a seminar as part of our Wine Talk Wednesday series. With Pedro, we discussed and sampled four delicious, phenomenally priced, food-friendly wines. I asked for his favorite food pairings.

Passaros Loureiro 2014 - Vinho Verde paired with oysters.

This wine is super crisp and super clean, with laser bright acidity and gorgeous citrus. Vinho Verde wines are made in the cool, mountainous region of northwest Portugal near the Lima River. Made from 100% Loureiro, an indigenous white variety, this wine is light, refreshing and perfect with oysters.

Luis Pato Maria Gomes 2014 paired with Asian cuisines

With a richer, thicker mouthfeel and more subdued acidity, this white is a great partner for Asian cuisines. Maria Gomes, also called Fernao Pires, is another native Portuguese variety, offering beautiful citrus and floral notes. It thrives in the sandy soils and humid climate of Bairrada, located south of Vinho Verde, near Portugal’s Atlantic coast.

Pedra Cancela Selecao Enologo 2013 with lamb

From the Dao, located east of Bairrada and protected by mountains on both sides, this is an elegant red blend. The region’s hot days and cool nights allow for slow, steady maturation, yielding beautiful wines such as this. A blend of Portuguese red varieties touriga nacional, tinto roriz, and alfrocheiro, the Pedra Cancela Selecao Enologo is aged mostly in steel. Only 20% of the blend spends time in cask, the winemaker choosing to use oak as a spice rather than a central component of the wine. With rich dark berry notes, savory spice, and a hint of black pepper on the finish, this is an excellent partner for lamb.

Ema’s Vineyard Tinto Paulo Laureano 2013 with prime rib with mushroom sauce (or, for the vegetarians, a juicy portobello burger)

Ema’s Vineyard Tinto is from Alentejo. Located in the southeastern part of Portugal, where the mountains flatten to plains, Alentejo has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. This wine blends together four regional varieties, including the nearly extinct Tinta Grossa. Aged 6 months in oak, this wine maintains bright acidity while also offering not insignificant tannins. Enjoyable now, this wine is also worthy of aging.

The work has been done for you. Pedro recommended these delicious pairing recommendations. Now, go make your grocery list.

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Stacy comes to Wine Library from the production side of the industry. After studying agriculture in college, she found herself working at a local winery and, at harvest season, snacking on as many Pinot Noir grapes as she could take before the winemaker noticed. She enjoys reading, hiking, and scoping out what's in season at the local farmers' markets.
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