Portuguese wines come in a wide range–from highly structured “big” reds to lighter-bodied varieties, and from crisp, slightly effervescent whites to dense, just-sweet-enough whites and both tawny and ruby Ports. Below is a brief primer on which types to pair with various foods.
Fine, expensive reds may be very tannic when young, and all reds taste softer and less tannic as they age. Among Portugal’s most tannic winds are the classic reds of Bairrada and Douro, and they will pair well with game, meaty stews and other richly sauced meets. By the way, FYI here’s a really good explanation of the difference between tannins and acidity in wines.
If you prefer to drink red wine even with white meats, a softer or lighter-bodied wine can be paired with them and with most simple red meat dishes. In this instance a robust and or tannic red wine may overpower the flavors of these understated dishes. Try a smooth red Alentejo, light, easy-going Ribatejo red, an elegant Palmela, Algarve or Alenquer, a light red from Obidos, or a mature red from almost any of the regions. The fresh acidity of a red Dao can cut through the richness of some meat dishes.
Robust, gutsy reds from the Douro, Dao, Bairrada and Alentejo can overpower delicate food flavors. Powerful food flavors can completely mask the taste of gentle white wines; and oak-aged wines, red or white, can also dominate a soft subtle dish.
Cheeses come in many guises; their flavors vary greatly. Many individual cheeses clash with individual wines. But some wine and cheese matches are divine. And the best cheese wines are just as likely to be dry or sweet, white or red, Port or Madeira. Try some of these combinations:
- White Vinho Verde with Thai roast duck curry, smoked mackerel, salads, hummus
- Red Vinho Verde with grilled sardines
- Bairrada/Baga with fresh tuna, roast partridge, chili con Carney, soft goat cheese
- Aragonez with feijoada (bean stew) or cassoulet, Gorgonzola, thyme-flavored dishes, lamb, liver
- Red Dao with pork, roast suckling pig, kidneys, presunto (cured ham)
- Un-oaked or subtly oaked Touriga Nacional with beef
- Setubal (a fortified muscatel) with tiramisu, Christmas pudding/fruitcake, lemon tart
- Douro red with fresh goat’s cheese, aged Gouda, Stilton
- Bual Madeira with Roquefort, Stilton, Gjetost (a firm, brown Norwegian goat’s milk cheese)
- 10-year-old tawny Port with Queijo da Serra (a soft, runny Portuguese cheese-in-a-rind from Serra), Stilton, walnuts
- Ruby or vintage Port with Queijo da Serra
The holidays are a great time to experiment with @WinesOfPortugal. Talk to your wine vendor. You will surely be surprised at the range and complexity–and you may find some real bargains as well.