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Saúde! The scoop on Portuguese wine and food pairings

Updated: Jun 10, 2020

Though the Portuguese introduced tempura to Japan, hot chillies to Asia, and tea to England, it’s hard for the outsider to pin down what exactly makes up Portuguese cuisine. The origins of Portuguese food lie in these ingredients obtained through trade routes established many centuries ago, as well as native, peasant cookery. Bread, rice, spices, pastries, sausages, and seafood — especially cod — remain the backbone of many Portuguese meals. So in honour of The National Day of Portugal, which is June 10, we thought we’d explore five classic Portuguese food dishes complete with wine pairings for each. The Portuguese wines we’ve suggested are all in stock at City Cellars, so taking that next step into exploring the culinary wonders of Portuguese cuisine is easy as um, dois, três!

Pasteis de Bacalhau with Douro Rosé

Cod is a primary ingredient in the bulk of Portuguese cuisine, and there’s likely some form of cod dish that could pair with any of the wines on this list. In fact, they say that there are 365 different ways of cooking with cod in Portugal, one for every day of the year!

Pasteis de Bacalhau, or cod fritters, are a light appetizer made with potatoes, onion, parsley, cod and pepper. As a snack food, they pair well with a Douro Rosé such as the Churchill’s Estate Rosé, which has the perfect structure for pairing with the fritters, pasta salad or crab cakes. This rosé is made from 100% Touriga Nacional grapes, which are also the grapes used to make port, and has a nose and palate of strawberry, cherry and white flowers.

Caldo Verde with Alvarinho Vinho Verde

The Portuguese are big fans of soups and stews; among the most famous is Caldo Verde, which some may consider as Portugal’s National Dish. This traditional dish is made from sausage, kale and potatoes. It’s true, hearty comfort food that is best paired with the crisp freshness and full flavours of an Alvarinho Vinho Verde.

We chose the Adega de Monção Alvarinho Vinho Verde, a white wine from the Monção e Melgaço region, for our Caldo Verde wine pairing. It has elegant, bold flavours of peach, apricot and tropical fruits, with aromas of blossoms and citrus.

Chouriço with Dao Tinto

The favorite sausage of most Portuguese is chouriço, a heavily smoked sausage made of pork, lots of garlic and paprika, and piri-piri sauce. It’s similar to the Spanish chorizo, but with less fat. You can purchase chouriço from specialty meat shops and Portuguese grocers. Chouriço is typically flame grilled, so fire up the barbecue or cook on a cast iron skillet.

We chose the Convento de Mortagua Tinto from Portugal’s Dao region for our wine pairing. Made from 100% Touriga Nacional, this medium-bodied wine has notes of juicy red fruits, a balanced acidity and ripe, mature tannins, making it a perfect pairing with spicy sausage.

Beef tenderloin with Douro Tinto

Lombo de vaca no forno, or oven-roasted beef tenderloin, is a classic Portuguese meat dish with lots of flavour and spice and that’s easy to prepare. Naturally, the red meat pairs well with a classic red wine from the Douro region. The A. Henriques Bairrada Red is a complex wine with notes of flowers, red berries and vanilla with soft tannins, and is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Baga and Merlot.

Pasteis de Nata with Port

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, the Portuguese have not forgotten about you. Pasteis de Nata are the quintessential Portuguese pastry, with flaky pastry crust and a custard centre. You can purchase these at local Portuguese bakeries, or attempt to make them yourself.

Though a more traditional pairing would be coffee, you could also pair these with port, such as the Taylor 20 Year Port. The sweetness of both will complement each other for a perfect after-dinner treat.

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