The best way to explore Portugal is through two things: its culture and its gastronomy. Besides being known for its beaches and coastline, as well as its rich history, Portugal is also known for its hearty food.
In fact, it’s known for several traditional dishes that are unique to the country. If you’re planning a trip to Portugal and to the Algarve, you’ll want to try some of these famous dishes and the wines that best harmonize with them.
Sardines are a staple in Portuguese households, specially in the Algarve, being an icon in a country with a fair amount of Atlantic shoreline and a cuisine heavily influenced by seafood of all sorts.
Different from other deliciously popular fish like tuna or salmon, sardines can refer to a variety of fish species in the herring family. With their distinctly salty, briny taste, these small fish can be an exciting addition to a meal if you can handle their flavour.
The Portuguese eat their sardines grilled and served whole, with their skins slightly toasted and almost caramelised. In an intoxicating mix of sweet, smokey and salty sensations. Using a knife and fork is optional, you’ll see people pick the sardines up by the head and tail and gnaw away at the middle. Similarly, you’ll see a sardine placed on a slice of bread and eaten with small nibbles, once again leaving the innards and spine alone. Afterwards the unwanted remains are pushed off the bread, and the bread will have absorbed all the delicious oils from the fish.
Harmonize with white wine: Dialog Verdelho 2019
Cod is the most common fish to eat in Algarve. It is said that there are as many codfish recipes as there are days in a year. In fact, recipes with codfish are countless. Codfish, which earned the nickname of fiel amigo (faithful friend) in Portugal, it’s deeply connected to Portuguese heritage, culture and local cuisine.
Most codfish Portuguese recipes are prepared with popular and common products of the Portuguese land, namely potatoes, onions and garlic, olive oil and eggs but we can also identify some specifics according to the Portuguese regions.
One of the most popular ways the Portuguese eat codfish is in an appetizer called “pastéis de bacalhau” (codfish cakes). A dish that is made from potatoes, eggs, shredded codfish, onion and parsley and can be enjoyed as a meal or as a snack at any time of the day.
Harmonize with white wine: Grace Viognier 2020
Cheese & Charcuterie
While seafood is a big part of the coastal Algarve’s culinary history, the inner Algarve is more focused on meats and sausages. Several sausage festivals take place throughout the year including the Festa das Chouriças which takes place in January in Querença and the Feira dos Enchidos which normally takes place in March in Monchique.
The Algarve is well-known for its beautiful regional cheeses (that can be creamy, soft, curated or consistent and with varied flavour intensities) and aromatic charcuterie (sausages and the traditional chorizo are a must-try), so it is no wonder they can be found in abundance and often in good company of a regional red wine.
Harmonize with red wine: Dialog Red 2014
Cozido à Portuguesa
Roughly translated as Portuguese stew, this is a traditional Portuguese dish composed of a great variety of ingredients cooked in abundant amounts of water: different types of “greens” (kale, cabbage, “tronchuda”, etc), rice, potatoes, beans, turnips, carrots, sausages (“chouriço”, “farinheira”, “moura”, etc), other types of meat (usually, pork) and sometimes with added bits of chicken.
While it doesn’t look too pretty, the flavour and richness of the dish is savoury and delicious. The dish has origins in the Beira region of north-central Portugal, just north of Lisbon, but this is widespread rustic Portuguese cuisine right here, designed in part to use up cheap offcuts of meat. It’s no-nonsense food, presented in a no-nonsense way.
Harmonize with red wine: Grace Touriga Franca 2017
The Algarve has some of the best wine production industries in the world. The climatic conditions and the land quality are exquisite and perfect for the production of many top quality grapes’ varieties (either of white or red wine). If you’re travelling to the Algarve, you’ll want to visit Quinta dos Vales (the oldest Wine Estate in the region) and try their amazing wine in a range that varies from 15 different grapes.
In case you’re not visiting any time soon, they also have an online shop that ships wine internationally, bringing you top-quality Portuguese wine to the comfort of your own home. Shop here: Quinta dos Vales wine.