Thursday, July 17, 2014

Great Pairings for Portuguese Wines

By Liza B. Zimmerman

This country’s white wines just get no respect: and boy do they merit it. Let’s start with Portugal’s bright, crisp and sometimes deliciously fizzy Vinho Verdes. Made in the northern part of the country, hard on the Spanish border, these wines are so refreshing and such a bargain.

Most Vinho Verdes are made of traditional blends such as Arinto, Loureiro and Trajadura (try to say that three times fast!). They pair beautiful with a wide range of seafood, both cooked and raw. They are also super-flexible with non-Western foods. The acid levels of these babies and that hint of residual sugar works so well with spicy food like Indian or Thai. They are also great with ceviche and can even stand up to that spritz of lime. Their somewhat, positively, vegetable nature would also make them a great match with hard-to-pair foods such as asparagus or artichokes.

The country also produces great wines in other wines such as the Douro and Setúbal (an easy day trip from Lisbon). There are some great cooperatives in these areas as well such as de Pegoes. The wine is another white blend that is primarily Fernao Pires.

Red Delights
The Northern region of the Douro has continued to make a name for itself with rustic, yet elegant reds made from the traditional Port grapes. Many of the best producers are—thankfully—using more of their grapes to produce still wines. These are blockbuster wines that can pack a lot of punch and tannins, and benefit—even while young—from a little air. So decant one and have a glass of Vinho Verde while it breaths.

The intense dustiness of many of these wines makes them a diving pairing with meats. You could stew or grill them: everything from a rare lamb chop to a crockpot full of oxtail strew would work. The charred flavor of the grill is also something that would create pairing synergies with meaty vegetables like mushrooms or eggplant as well.

The Dão region in the far south of the country also makes some extraordinary reds. Aliança’s “Quinta da Garrida,” is one of them. This one is much more fruit-forward and international in style. The fruit chewy style of some of this region’s wines might well work better with sweeter-style American BBQ sauces.

I am thinking Memphis tomato-inflected or South Carolina mustard-based sauces all the way. It is a shame so many BBQ places don’t serve wine. I made my mother go to one of the best BBQ joints outside of Charleston where they wouldn’t even let us bring in a tipple. I am not sure if she has entirely forgiven me: but I can still taste that BBQ to this day. If you are in New York, order in from Daisy May’s in Hell’s Kitchen and drink what you love with it.

Port Pairings
Those same types of slightly sweet reds sauces can pair surprisingly well with a Port-based cocktail or Tawny Port. Fonseca’s 10-Year-Old Tawny is a delight. It is probably too good to be mixed in a cocktail but if you want to be daring you could pour it over some tonic water and ice. Add a slice of orange and you have a beautiful, low-alcohol cocktail. This type of drink is perfect for porch sipping and will work with a range of grilled meats. Turkish-style meatballs—dust them with plenty of the dark, brown spice sumac and use a mix of lamb and beef—will also show their savory side with this type of cocktail.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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