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Think of Portugal

Think of Portuguese wines and Vinho Verde might spring to mind, the slightly fizzy acid wines of the north which go so well with the local olive oil and salt cod dishes. Or Alvarinho – if you have been to the Algarve you will no doubt have tried the local sardines and swallowed them down with dry white wine made from the fresh and aromatic Alvarinho grape (in Spain Albarino). Or you might think of Lancers or Mateus Rosé, the slightly carbonated pink wines which happily go down so well in England with our curries. There`s just a chance, if you have wined and dined with the Portuguese in their homes, you will even think of their rustic red wines which accompany the basic, traditional cuisine. There`s also Madeira – fortified wines produced on Portugual`s eponymous Atlantic island, ranging from dry to sweet: Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, Terrantez and Malmsey. However, think of Portugal and surely we all think first of Port. After all, it is as English a Portuguese wine as you can get. Fortified with spirit and sweet, vintage port is the Englishman`s traditional nip after dinner with the stilton, just as claret is his red with roast lamb. The decanting process required to remove the wine`s sediment is all part of the ritual, showing off the wine`s deep ruby colour. Sweet and velvet, the ruby style is also popular in less costly versions which don`t require decanting, such as Late Bottled Vintage. These are pleasantly sweet and fruity without the intensity or finesse of a vintage. However, it`s the white ports and amber-coloured, nutty style of wood-matured tawny ports which the locals in Portugal like to drink – chilled as aperitif wines or famously with creamy cow`s cheese and quince jam. Here we tend to ignore white port (a great shame, it makes a wonderful aperitif) and we might just sip a Tawny by the fireside. Thinking of Portugal now, what springs to your mind?

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