Cosimo Commisso reminisces about one of Portugal’s many adventures: its delectable palette of wines
It’s only natural that a place as beautiful as Portugal can create some of the world’s most beautiful wines. Portugal’s wines have a fascinating culture of their own: every type of wine is borne from a history-rich process, and each glass — each sip — tells a story.
Famously known as a “seaside wine,” Portugal’s rose is sourced from cooler areas like the maritimes or places in high altitudes. The result is a crisp, more acidic wine that’s best enjoyed when the ocean is in view. As they’re naturally so sweet, Portugal’s rose is best paired with lighter dishes, like veggies or salads.
You’ll find two types of Portugal white wines: the lighter whites sourced in the cooler, hilly northwest region of the country, and the fuller-bodied whites from Alentejo,the Douro or Trás-os-Montes. The lighter stuff is a lovely, easy drink, not only because they’re the lowest in alcohol, but because they’re soft and refreshing, making them the perfect pairing to a serene summertime meal. Fuller-bodied whites derive their strength from the scorching summer sun in certain areas of Portugal, and the taste is always reminiscent of the oak-aging process that many of them go through.
Just having a glass of Portugal’s sparkling wine in your hand is cause for celebration. I strongly recommend sipping on Bairrada-produced sparkling wine, although the Douro also produces a fine variety of its own. And an added perk: the sparkle of these wines doesn’t favour a particular season; it’ll add to the cheer in the summer or warm you up in the winter.
Portugal reds can be divided into four families: light, tangy and fruity reds; rich and full-bodied reds; robust reds; and elegant reds. (I know, they all sound incredible, right?). Some of my personal favourites: if you seek a wine with character, the tangy red produced in the cool, rainy region of Vinho Verde is an interesting pick. The elegant red produced in Dao is also perfection — you can savour it on its own, or pair it with some good cheese.
Tawny, ruby and white are the three types of Port wine, and each is a must-try. Tawnies carry notes of nuts, fruits and figs that are meant to be served chilled. Ruby Ports are redder and slightly firmer than Tawnies — pair it with dessert. White Ports are a newer style meant to be served in cocktails, or chilled and neat. They range in sweetness, with doce being basically a dessert and seco is the driest. When it comes to White Ports, you may have to taste-test them all before you discover your absolute favourite (which, I’m sure, is just fine with you).
Madeira is a great wine to reach to if you want to savour a glass all on its own or as the grand finale of a great meal. It’s got character, having been wood-aged under extreme heat. I personally appreciate Madeira wines because they really range in sweetness, from super-sweet to off-dry. Basically, there’s a Madeira for everyone.
Last — but certainly not least — Moscatel. A lot of people save this stuff for the holidays, when its cheery fig notes really complement the festive dishes and overall vibe of the season. Come Christmas 2016, maybe reach for a bottle of Portugal Moscatel instead of the eggnog.