January 26, 2022

Portugal: In a Glass and On the Table

Brianne Cohen drinking Portuguese wine at dinner

Portugal has skyrocketed in popularity as of late, both for leisure travelers and for digital nomads looking to stretch their dollar. It seems like everyone is discovering how amazing Portugal is! From the cuisine, wine, and affordable lodging, it is a no-brainer to make it next on your travel list.  In the meantime, pour a glass of Portuguese wine and transport yourself to the old country.

Portuguese wines are built for food. They tend to have a strong acid backbone and structure (things like body, tannins, and flavor intensity). What I love about Portuguese wine and food is that the pairings are not hard and fast. This sure isn’t white tablecloth fine dining. Portuguese food is hearty, rustic, and flavorful. It is not fussy and immaculate pairings need not apply.

If I had to distill down why people should pay attention to and drink more Portuguese wines, I’d say the food friendliness as described above and the fact that most of the wines are incredibly value-priced and with strong QPR (quality price ratio), especially compared to domestic wines.

If you’re drinking commercial grocery store red blends in the $15 range, Portuguese red blends are sure to be your next favorite wines. You’ll find more variety with Portuguese red blends, as grocery store red blends are quite homogenous and indistinguishable. Also, you’ll be getting honest regional wines versus mass-produced commercial grocery store glug.

I recently attended a press dinner at Caldo Verde in the Proper Hotel DTLA, featuring a beautiful family-style Portuguese meal served with an offering of Portuguese wines from Diniz Cellars.

Proper Hotel Downtown Los Angeles

Portuguese wine dinner people cheers

Caldo Verde menu Portugese wine dinner

First Course

Yellow Tomato Campechana

Shrimp, Crab, Avocado, Local Halibut

Endive + Apple

Anchovy Cream, Pomegranate, Monte Enebro

2017 Kelman Encruzado Dão $19

The Dão region is considered the Burgundy of Portugal by some. Wines from this region are elegant, elevated, and ageable. This is the first Kelman wine of the evening, from this female-owned producer. Made from the Encruzado grape, the wine is bright and fresh, but with a grounded, savory and herbal note.

The goal here is to pair acidity. This is the “like with like” food and wine pairing principle. The acidic elements in the dishes (tomato, apple, and pomegranate) matched the acidity in this Portuguese white. Also, both dishes were great pairings because they have a juxtaposition within them (acid and fat in both dishes), as does the wine with bright versus savory notes.

Portugal Wine Kelman Encruzado Dão 2017

Second Course

Prawns

Heirloom Garlic, Arbol Chile, Salsa Verde

Seared Merluza

Tomato Rice, Black Olives, Dandelion, Aïoli

2020 Vale Dos Ares Alvarinho $22

A lively and zippy wine serving stone fruit (apricot) and tropical fruit (both pineapple and passion fruit).

Portugal Wine Vale dos Ares Alvarinho 2020

Third Course

Caldo Verde

Local Rock Crab, Grilled Linguiça, Kale, Mussels, Potato

2017 Kelman Tinto Dão $19

Back to Kelman with this Portuguese red blend comprised of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfocheiro, and Jaen grapes. This wine is Pinot Noir in style and is a lighter red when it comes to Portuguese red blends. A lovely pairing with caldo verde, a traditional Portuguese soup with a modern spin by the addition of seafood. Proof that seafood doesn’t always need a white wine!

Portuguese Wine Dinner Stew

Portugal Wine Kelman Tinto Dão 2017

Fourth Course

Beef Cheeks

Avocado, Green Chile, Crema, Radish

Mess of Local Greens

Garlic, Chile, CARM Organic Olive Oil

2018 Herdade Das Albernoas Alentejano $17

This is what I’d call “Portugal in a glass” for those new to Portuguese wines. Pronounced rusticity/earthiness but great fruit, acid, and structure. Chef’s kiss!

Portuguese wine dinner beef cheeks

Portugal Wine Vivino Herdade das Albernoas Alentejano 2018

Dessert Course

Three Portuguese Cheeses

Almonds, Walnuts, Figs, Doce de Tomate

Pear Serradura

Pear Brandy, Vanilla Chantilly and Hazelnut Streusel

Basque Chocolate Cheesecake

Griottines, Feuilletine

2017 Quinta Do Pôpa Vintage Port $96

Vintage Port is only made in the best years (the producer decides) and with grapes from the best vineyards. This Vintage Port delights with its “figgy” cooked fruit notes. Drinks a bit like a Ruby Port, but not as sweet. Great acid which is a nice foil to the fat in the cheese course.

Quinta do Pôpa Vintage Port 2017 and cheese

A special thanks to Sandra Gomes with Diniz Cellars and Caldo Verde for hosting.

Sandra Gomez Diniz Cellars Caldo Verde Portuguese wine dinner

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re looking to Up Your Wine Game and Drink Better, consider booking a private in-person or virtual wine tasting experience.
Brianne Cohen Wine Educator
Brianne Cohen is a certified sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and writer based out of Los Angeles.

Since March 2020, Brianne has educated and entertained over 5,000 people through her “Virtual Vino” online wine tastings.

Brianne holds the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Diploma certificate, one of the most coveted wine certifications in the world. When she’s not helping others Up Their Wine Game, she can be found judging at international wine competitions.

Brianne aims to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected, distinctive wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine in their everyday lives.

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As a wine writer, I frequently accept samples for review on my  website and on my social media channels. Please contact me at brianne@briannecohen.com to discuss sending samples for review. I promise to always be honorable with the samples. I will evaluate all wines in good tasting settings and with no distractions.

All reviews are my opinions, and mine only. Because of the volume of samples I receive, I cannot promise that all samples received will be reviewed, but I will do my best.

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