A QUICK GUIDE TO PORTUGUESE GRAPES
Portugal has over 250 indigenous grapes.
The same grapes can have different names according to the area where they are planted.
Some of the grapes can have strange and somewhat “frightening” names, but we will try to match the Portuguese Grapes to some similar and most known international grape varieties, as well as pair them with some Portuguese and International food.
ALVARINHO – if you like Albariño (Spain), Riesling (dry) or expressive Pinot Gris/Grigio
From the Vinho Verde region. Alvarinho has a highly characteristic floral and fruity profile with notes of lime tree, balm mint, honeysuckle, peach, grapefruit and apple, all well married with the high acidity of crisp white wines from the North-west of Portugal.
Fish and chips
Korean pickled banchan
Vietnamese shredded chicken salad with cellophane noodles
Veal Piccata with lemon
ARINTO / PEDERNÃ – If you like Riesling (dry), Pinot Blanc or Chenin Blanc (dry)
Arinto from the Lisbon area, or Pedernã from the Vinho Verde area has a crisp acidity as one of its key features combined with a distinctive mineral character, excellent structure and a velvety finish.
Relatively soft aromas namely green apple and apple.
Grilled fish (white fish fillets) quail and vegetable brochettes.
Sandwiches and salads, charcuterie and devilled eggs, olives.
Asian steamed fish with mushrooms and lemongrass
European shrimp and scallop terrine with tarragon aioli
Chicken salad with green apples and walnuts
FERNÃO PIRES / MARIA GOMES – if you like Viognier, Rousanne or Torrontés.
Fernão Pires in the Lisbon area or Maria Gomes in the Bairrada area. It is typified by its citrus aromas and notes of mimosa, lime and orange tree.
White fleshed fish served with mango salad, a coconut infused lightly spiced curry, pork loin with apricot chutney, or a pan roasted chicken breast with a plum mustard.
Macadamia nuts, pine nuts, cashew.
Peking duck with hoisin sauce, green onions and pancakes.
Lamb tagine with honey and raisins
Brazilian seafood stew with coconut and tomatoes.
ARAGONEZ / TINTA RORIZ – if you like Tempranillo (especially from Ribera del Duero), Sangiovese or Cardignan
Tinta Roriz is the same grape as Spanish Tempranillo, hence its presence in 2 of the world’s most famous wines – the Portuguese Barca Velha and the Spanish Vega Sicilia. In the Alentejo area it is known as Aragonez. It produces full bodied, inky and highly aromatic wines with fine and delicate aromas of pepper and berries.
Depending of the region and varying levels of tannins, acidity and oak ageing.
Red meats such as beef, roasted pork, sausages and sucking pig (Bairrada). Dishes using a quantity of herbs. Duck, venison.
The Rosés pair well with Asian and Indian food.
Vegetarian dishes mostly those with grilled vegetables
Teriyaki chicken with grilled vegetable skewers
Broiled tuna with black olive tapenade
Roasted chicken with buttermilk mashed potatoes.
BAGA – if you like medium-bodied Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir or Xinomavro
Baga is grown in selected areas of the country specially in Bairrada and Dão. When grown in ideal conditions it produces wines of deep colour, good structure and powerful tannins that become finely balanced with bottle ageing. When young it has aromas to red cherry/berry fruits developing into red/black plum, tobacco and coffee beans flavours, finishing with expansive complexity. The grape’s acidity allows the production of quality sparkling wines, and the general consensus is that the best examples of this style in Portugal come from Bairrada.
Normally paired with Bairrada’s suckling pig, Baga is an acquired taste not for the faint of heart. It also pairs well with pork belly, duck, from rich pastas to ribs and stews. Baga’s high acidity enables it to pair with seafood as squids or shrimps that have been prepared with red wine and it matches also milder and higher acidity chesses like feta.
Asian duet: Fried rice with Chinese sausage, char siu pork and bok choy
European duet: Roast suckling pig (leitão, cochonillo, cochon de lait)
American duet: Slow-smoked southern BBA beef ribs with mustard and vinegar
CASTELÃO – if you like Barbera, ripe Cabernet Franc or Tempranillo (full-bodied Rioja).
This variety is at its most expressive in the Peninsula de Setubal area where it makes robust and intense red wines with aromas to red berries and blue flowers that benefit from the skilful use of oak ageing.
Pairs well with herbal scented recipes that use marinated meats or served with a stew garnished with fresh herbs, even grilled tuna and dishes with peppers.
Mexican food like enchiladas.
The rosado Castelão also pairs well with some meatier fishes (again with spices, herbs and peppers)
Asian duet: Slow-roasted Korean short ribs marinated with garlic and soya sauce.
European duet: French charcuterie, Italian salami or Iberian chourizo/linguiça
American duet: Brazilian feijoada of beef, pork and black beans
TOURIGA FRANCA – if you like Merlot blends or softer styles of Zinfandel
Touriga Franca is used to make dry Port and Douro wines. It shows delicate yet intense floral aromas with notes of blackberries combined with a full-bodied character and a vibrant ruby colour.
Touriga Franca is one of the principal varieties used in Port blends together with Touruga Nacional and Tinta Roriz.
Pairs well with rich red meat dishes such as grilled lamb and beef steaks, especially the more rustic cuts such as hangar or flank, Add a little piri-piri or the fashionable and tasty chimichurri sauce (the Touriga Franca also pairs well with game such as squab and venison and dishes with mushrooms such as porcini, morels and Chinese black.
Asian duet: Stir-fried Malasyan rice noodles with dark soy, pork and shrimp
European duet: Greek moussaka with spiced lamb, béchamel and ancho cilli paste.
TOURIGA NACIONAL – if you like Cabernet Sauvignon/blends, elegant Petite Sirah or fuller-bodied Syrah
Touriga Nacional was said to be originated in the Dão region, although it is now grown all over Portugal and in some parts of the world like Australia and the USA.
It yields inky, full-bodied and powerful wines with exceptional complex aromas.
It frequently shows, blackberry, blueberry, rockrose and rosemary notes.
Port that has been blended using Touriga Nacional is a horse of a different colour and will pair splendidly with chocolate, coffee, mocha and nut based desserts. Also an idela match to blue cheeses from Cambozola to Roquefort.
As the key driving varietal of Douro red blends, Touriga Nacional can be considered for any of the typical red wine pairings: red meat dishes such as stews, steaks and roasts, and smoked or grilled meats. Beautiful with teriyaki or char-siu glazes it also matches well with combinations of fruit and meat – lamb with apricots, duck with prunes, chicken breats with raisin sauce, orange zest and pine nuts.
Asian duet: Robata-grilled beef with rice and black mushrooms
European duet: Cassoulet with duck, sausage and beans
American duet: Coffee crusted prime rib of beef with fingerling potatoes.
TRINCADEIRA (Tinta Amarela) – if you like Carigan, Grenache or Dolcetto
Although Trincadeira is one of the most widespread Portuguese grapes varieties, it performs better in hot, dry and sunny climates, which makes it perfectly suited for regions as the Alentejo.
Trincadeira yields in most years great wines with excellent acidity, soft tannins and intense aromas of black plum and jammy blackberry, producing elegant and well balanced wines. When blended with Aragonez (Tempranillo) in the Alentejo or with Touriga Nacional in the Douro it produces crowd-pleasing wines.
This varietal is rarely seen as soloist but adds nice texture and soft floral notes to the wines of which it is a part.
Soft cheese, simple recipes of pork, lamb and poultry; poussin, Cornish hens and even turkey. Dishes with paprika, pimento, ot other sweet/smoky spices also make a good match.
Asian duet: Thai chicken satay with peanut sauce and cucumber salad
European duet: Paella with chicken shellfish and saffron
American duet: Argentinian empanadas stuffed with beef, onions, olives and raisins
It’s a lot to read, but we sincerely hope that we helped to a better understanding of some of the main Portuguese grape varieties.
Enjoy it with your favourite food!!!
Exquisite Portuguese Wines
Adapted from ”Challenge your senses / Enjoy the unique” from Wines of Portugal