From Algarve beaches to the breathtaking mountains of the north, Portugal is a land of contrasts. In between lie verdant floodplains, rolling plains and cork forests, wetland reserves… The east is dry and continental, the west milder, ocean-influenced, greener, especially the lush north west. Today, the country is linked and united as never before by fine new roads – just one sign of the prosperity that has spread across Portugal from the late ‘80s onwards. But tradition still lies at Portugal’s heart. Families spend time together, eat long meals together. Friends enjoy festivals, dancing, fado, café culture and eating out.
Food and wine are fundamental. The occasional modern restaurant apart, tradition rules: hearty portions of local dishes, meat, hams and sausages, game in season, magnificent fish and seafood, the beloved salt cod (bacalhau), copious bread, rice and potatoes, and a bottle of olive oil always at the ready. Dessert is obligatory –1001 delightful combinations of egg yolks with sugar: lots of sugar.
Portugal’s winemakers have been equally conservative in one respect – keeping faith with their grapes. And no wonder! Portugal’s varieties are unique, with thrillingly different flavours. Yet quality-wise there has been no resting on traditional laurels. A quarter-century of investment, education, open-mindedness and flair has meant explosive change. Choice has multiplied too. Alongside co-ops and large companies, myriad estates now make their own distinctive wines.
Terroir is so diverse. From north to south, from east to west, from mountain to maritime vineyards, hot and dry or cool and green. In every style, from fizz to port, from crisp dry whites to elegant reds, in so many diverse ways, Portuguese wines are unique.