Portugal has a gastronomy that is as rich and varied as its landscape and heritage. With its extensive coastal strip, it is impossible to find a restaurant by the sea that does not offer its diners tasty dishes of fresh fish or delicious seafood. The sea can also serve as your inspiration for discovering some of the 1001 recipes for the preparation of dishes based on “bacalhau”, the dried salted cod that is so loved by the Portuguese. Nor can you afford to miss sampling the famous “cozido à portuguesa”, a succulent dish combining meat and vegetables.
Olive-oil and fresh aromatic herbs are a constant feature of our cuisine. You’ll be astounded by the quality and variety of cheeses made from ewe, cow or goat’s milk, such as those from Serra da Estrela, Serpa, Nisa or Azeitão. And now the time has come to talk about Portuguese wine. Just how many images of a country can be found within one single bottle of wine? Drunk all over the world, white or red, whether made from immature “verde” or fully ripe grapes, our wine has its own special story to tell. And if you really want to know and understand a wine, it’s not enough just to taste it: you have to visit the places where it comes into being, spending some time in the region where the grapes are grown under the watchful eye of time and savouring the best of the local gastronomy, in order to understand the soul of all the flavours. A region’s wine, just like its gastronomy, springs from the landscapes and culture that it bears witness to.
In the Minho, where it seems that green has consumed all the other colours of the rainbow, verdant landscapes stretch all the way to the horizon. Due to the particular conditions of its soil and climate, this region produces a unique wine. Light and fresh, “vinho verde” is an excellent wine for accompanying starters, or fish and seafood dishes, or just for enjoying a relaxing break on a hot, sunny day. Make sure to try the “caldo verde” soup made from potatoes and cabbage, the corn bread known as “broa de milho”, the sausages, the “bacalhau” dishes, the lamprey eel, trout and shad, and discover the most highly appreciated Portuguese “vinho verde”, Alvarinho.
Also in the north of the country, in a region of granite hills, where the soil is heated by the sun, the most famous of all wines was first made in the grandiose amphitheatres that shape the valley of the River Douro. This has been a demarcated region since 1756, being the first in the world to be afforded this status, and it is from this unique landscape – classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site – that Port wine is created. This unforgettable panorama of terraces, carved out of the hillsides by the hands of men, is best admired in all of its great exuberance from aboard a boat gently cruising along the river.
In the Serra da Estrela and the Serra do Caramulo, wherever you go, a mountain always appears in front of you, presenting such varied and interesting contrasts. We recommend you visit some of the most emblematic estates that produce the famous Dão wine and try out some of the local gastronomic delights, including a whole range of typical dishes prepared from kid, a variety of sausages, and the famous cheese known as queijo da Serra, raising a glass of wine at the same time, as a toast to life itself.
To the south, on the Peninsula of Setúbal, you will find a series of clear contrasts: mountain and sea, city and country, modernity and tradition. As you travel between Azeitão, Palmela and Setúbal, you will find all kinds of delights for the senses. Just smell the different aromas of the vines and savour some of the best regional gastronomy, such as fish and seafood dishes, cheeses and sweets, always accompanied by a glass of white or red, or one of the local sweet fortified wines.
In the Alentejo, the special properties of the land and the relentless sun combine to form some quite appetising creations. Discover the secrets of the towns and villages devoted to the art of viticulture, and ask for one of the wines from Borba, Redondo, Reguengos or Vidigueira to accompany the dishes made with such care and imagination, such as migas (bread crumbs mixed with bacon fat and garlic) with pork, açorda alentejana (bread soup with coriander and garlic), the local cheeses and the desserts made from the old recipes of the monks.
In the archipelago of the Azores, you should try the delicious cozido das Furnas (a stew cooked by using the heat inside the earth itself), the succulent meat from the beef cattle of the islands’ green meadows, the famous queijo da Ilha cheese, the tasty locally-grown pineapple. Take advantage of your visit to taste the Verdelho wine produced from the vineyards of Pico, which are classified as a World Heritage site. In Madeira, let your taste buds be seduced by the espetada de carne (cubes of charcoal grilled beef on a skewer of laurel), the special bolo de mel (honey cake), the island’s exotic fruits and, of course, the famous Madeira wine.
Tags: Portugal eating and drinking, Portugal gastronomy, Portugal restaurants, Portugal wines