Port wine put Portugal on the map centuries ago—it’s named after the coastal city of Porto, situated at the mouth of the Douro River, where much of this sweet dessert wine has been produced since the 18th century. But the locals haven’t been living on port alone. Thanks to the rich soil, temperate climate and well-protected land, the country is flush with vineyards that churn out impressive table wines as well, says chef Rui Correia, who grew up in Porto and is the founder of Douro and Gaia restaurants in Greenwich, CT. “For a small country, Portugal has some of the greatest varieties of grapes in the world,” he says. “Their wines are neck and neck with those from Italy.” Yet Portugal’s wines aren’t as well known, which makes them something of an insider’s secret among oenophiles.
While there’s an abundance of styles to choose from, most blends are extremely balanced and easy to “drink a lot of and enjoy with a meal,” says Correia, who stocks many of the best bottles at both his restaurants. Here, the chef talks us through the top wines to try from this country at your next gathering. Saude!
Herdade do Esporao Verdelho 2014, $21
“This is a very crisp white wine with lots of minerality. I would compare it to a Sauvignon Blanc from California or Europe; it’s not grassy or overly citrus-y, but it has enough acidity to cut through the fats in cheeses and olive oils. I would serve it with burrata and cured meat.”
Pairs Well With: Burrata with Spanish chorizo and greens, drizzled with white balsamic reduction
Quinta do Crasto Douro Red Reserva Old Vines 2012, $46
“This is one of the most sought-after wines at my restaurants. It’s similar to a merlot in that it has good body and structure with a little bit of a dry tone, so it’s not overpoweringly sweet. It stands up nicely to dishes with deep textures and bold flavors, like a paella or grilled chicken.”
Pairs well with: Mixed seafood paella with saffron rice
Quinta do Portal Super Reserva Rosé, $16
“The up-and-coming rosés from Portugal are done in the style of Provence; they’re light and pale in color, with hints of strawberry. Because the wine is so delicate in flavor, I would serve it with simple, clean dishes, like dorado or grilled sea bass with fresh salad.”
Pairs well with: Whole roasted dorado with lemon