In Praise of Portugal

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Vintages Feature Story

With 250+ grape varieties fashioned into endlessly interesting value-driven wines, this small but mighty country has much to recommend it.

Famous for its sweet fortified wines, Portugal, it may surprise you to learn, also has one of the most diverse and unique collections of dry table wines on planet Earth. With its long, rich wine history and vast assortment of indigenous grape varieties, Portugal is a trove of treasures for the oenological explorer to discover. Here’s a taste of what it has to offer.

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History Notes

Portugal has been home to winemaking for at least 4,000 years. Viticulture persisted over the centuries despite conquests by the Romans and Moors, and vineyards still flourished when the 1386 Treaty of Windsor established England as a trade partner and the 1703 Treaty of Methuen led to the rise of Port wine. Throughout all this, the Portuguese steadfastly tended and vinified their own unique indigenous grape varieties, something they still do today.


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Style Watch

Despite its relatively small size, Portugal is home to hundreds of indigenous grape varieties – even more, says expert consensus, than France! From these, Portugal makes plenty of wine styles besides its fortified Port, from its internationally popular Vinho Verde to its increasingly acclaimed red blends.

Vinho Verde (“green wine”), typically made from Alvarinho in the Minho Valley or Loureiro in the Lima Valley, is a bright, crisp, high-acidity white wine grown in a cool climate and released while youthful (hence “green”).

Many of Portugal’s best red wines (dry wines or Port alike) are based on one or both of Touriga Nacional, which is powerful, structured and rich in dark fruit; and Touriga Franca, which is elegant, perfumed and floral, with red and dark fruit.


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Match Points

Portugal’s wines have always been intended for the dinner table, so it’s no surprise they’re food-friendly. Vinho Verde is a local favourite with grilled sardines, calamari or cod. It’s also perfect for green salads, sushi, crab cakes or seafood pasta. Portugal’s red wines are the classic pairing for arroz de pato (duck rice) or churrasco chicken. They’re also great with steak, burgers, pizza, or pasta in tomato sauce.


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Did you know?

Foodies know brothers Tony and Mario Amaro as stars of Ontario’s restaurant scene – they’re the proprietors of Opus in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood – but they’re also among the co-founders and owners of Quadrus, whose vineyard sits atop a terraced hillside in Portugal’s famed Douro Valley.

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