One of the many delights experienced on a visit to Macau is to indulge in its myriad of Portuguese wines. Long before Hong Kong abolished its tax on imported wine, vino aficionados were heading over to our sister SAR to indulge in the robust cuisine of Portugal, with dishes that allude to the country’s seafaring and trading roots.
Think spicy African chicken and mini footballs of deep fried Bacalhau and you get the drift. Macau’s hearty, homey fare is best paired with a bottle or two of vinho verde or tinto. Yet Catia Moura reminds us that Portuguese wine has a long and illustrious history. In fact, wine was the basis for an ancient treaty between England and Portugal.
“Portuguese wine was first shipped to England in the 12th century,” says Moura, the area manager for ViniPortugal.
“The oldest treaty in the world was signed in 1386 between Portugal and England, which fostered closer diplomatic relations between the two countries, opened the door for extensive trade opportunities and increased the popularity of port in the UK.
“Madeira wine was the first European wine to travel to the Americas and Asia. It was the wine that toasted the signing of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. We are very proud that Portugal has more than 4,000 years of viniculture and winemaking history.”
Madeira is a fortified wine made in the Madeira Islands situated southwest of Portugal, while port is a sweet fortified dessert wine or digestive made in the Douro Valley of northern Portugal.
Although other countries can make wine similar in style to port, only those made in Portugal can truly be called by that name.
The country’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean breezes, its long coastline, its varying soil ranging from sand to shale and a dry, hot summer all combine to make it an ideal place to farm grapes.
The intense sun concentrates the sugars in grapes, giving them rich sweetness tempered with acidity and complexity.
“Portugal has the highest density of native grape varieties in the world and unparalleled diversity of terroir,” Moura says.
“We have more than 250 native grape varieties; most of these do not exist anywhere else in the world.”
As a testament to its quality, Portuguese wine has been sweeping competitions lately, with a Portuguese winery taking top honours as the best in the world this year.
Meanwhile, the Douro and Alentejo regions of Portugal are among the world’s top wine-producing areas to visit.
“Portuguese wine is recognised globally and wins many awards in international competitions. For every 10 submitted to competition, eight will receive an award.”
As Portuguese wine pairs well with Macanese cuisine, she recommends opting for refreshing summery whites such as Arinto with steamed fish or Fernao Pires with Peking duck.
“Arinto is a versatile white grape with youthful acidity that makes it ideal for simply prepared crustaceans such as crab or lobster,” she says.
“It’s the perfect wine to take on a summer picnic. Fernao Pires has extraordinary intoxicating fruit aromas best coaxed by a skilled winemaker, and is well complemented with dishes accented by fruit.”
As for reds, she suggests Baga and Touriga Nacional.
“Baga is a red not for the faint of heart – it is characterised by fresh acidity and ample tannins, making it good with fried rice with Chinese sausage, char siu and bok choy.
“Touriga Nacional is one of our country’s finest grape varieties and yields full bodies and powerful wines. It’s beautiful with teriyaki or char siu glazes, along with red meat dishes such as stews, steaks and roasts.”
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