The Alentejo Wine & Food Culture | Portugal
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
Alentejo is Portugal’s wine country too, where centuries of tradition are combined with the latest technologies to produce world-class wines. The region’s vineyards pre-date the Romans and today house more than 250 producers. The soils are very diverse, with varied outcroppings of clay, schist, granite, marble and limestone – perfect for vine cultivation. The ideal climate for winemaking paired with the wisdom of local winemakers who create unique wines ranging from light to bold, both white and red. As for the grapes varieties, there are many and almost all distinct to the region. They include the whites grapes Antão Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro, and the reds Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez and Trincadeira.
We should try the "Vinho de Talha", a wine aged in a clay amphora, the exact way the Romans made their wines more than 2,000 years ago.
This depth about time and wine traditions in Alentejo is to be paired with an insider's view to its cuisine. This long standing wisdom about wine and food is the reason why culinary experiences are able to leave a sharp impression on our individual memory. And it is of memory that Alentejo's cuisine is made, particularly, because oral tradition is still much alive in daily gestures of life, either working the land, singing the "Canto Alentejano" at the end of the day or cooking traditional family recipes...
Influenced by a Mediterranean climate and Roman and Moorish heritage, the Alentejo cuisine is unique in Portugal. There is influence from the Age of Exploration too, where seasonings like coriander arrived from the East.
It is a whole other world of flavors, with olive oil, local cheese, a wheat bread baked only in Alentejo, bread stews (Açorda), local meats and fish all playing leading roles. The Alentejo’s breads are rich, crusty and wonderful. But don’t forget the divine pastry and sweets created in monasteries and convents centuries ago or the many wines produced in the varied climates and soils of these lands.
In the Alentejo, a meal starts with a variety of appetizers. Cured ham, or Presunto de Barrancos PDO, is a local delicacy, and goat and sheep cheeses from Nisa and Serpa usually accompany thin slices of cured ham. Olives, whether black or green, harvested from olive groves throughout the Alentejo are a staple. The pièce de résistance of food traditions in Alentejo is fresh bread dipped in olive oil, sometimes flavored with a drop of vinegar and a pinch of sea salt.
Other Alentejo specialties include roasted peppers, bread stews and octopus salad flavored with onion and peppers seasoned in olive oil. Some typical Alentejo foods share recipes with neighboring Spain, as in the case of the Alentejo gazpacho, a tomato and cucumber based soup served cold.
One famed regional dish is Carne de Porco à Alentejana, Alentejo-style pork, a stew of pork cubes and clams with potatoes and lots of coriander. In fact, coriander is at the heart of Alentejo cuisine. The herb is most frequently used in the south of Portugal.
On the fish side, there is rich fish stew, fresh crab, grilled fish and octopus.
And we should mention two more things that are 100 percent Alentejo: Migas à Alentejana, a bread-based puree, and Alentejo sausages such as the thick Paio sausages that vary from town to town.
No trip to the Alentejo is complete without dessert. Travelers with a sweet tooth have a lot to get excited about, from the traditional egg and cinnamon pudding Sericaia or Pinhoadas (pine nut nougat), to convent-made pastry and more.
In the Alentejo, an authentic meal can be found anywhere, from humble taverns to the region’s chef-driven eateries. There is no need to seek haute-cuisine restaurants: The tastiest and most heart-warming meals can be found in traditional (and affordable) eateries, where locals will treat you like family. Cuisine and hospitality are always linked in the Alentejo...
That is why you should book with us and make memories that will last a life time!
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Free adaptation from original texts by Alentejo's Tourism Board (ERT - Portugal)
All photos by Alentejo Tourism Board - credits unknown