Match made in Portugal
Food and wine pairing is so much akin to personal style that apart from a few guidelines – and some obvious faux pas – there are no absolutes.
What is important is that diners have a great time and a new experience by visualising where they taste the food and wine on their tongue.
This is where João Chaves, Restaurant Manager of Chiado at Sands Cotai Central, comes in. An expert in food and wine in his own right, Chaves studied for a year to attain accreditation with Wines of Portugal, an association created to promote the country’s wines to the world. At the institute, Chaves learned about Portugal’s immense variety of terroirs and grape varieties and blends the country has to offer.
It’s from this perspective that Chaves has carefully chosen and paired some fascinating Portuguese wines with the contemporary Portuguese cuisine created by Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa, Executive Chef of Chiado. Chef Henrique is the founder of Lisbon’s twoMichelin starred Alma. The result of the wine pairing is an interesting journey of the palate with a magical experience that takes innovative Portuguese cuisine to a new level.
ALLO (Alvarinho & Loureiro) 2018
Seared scallops with green peas, chouriço sausage and quail eggs
Allo is from the region of Vinho Verde which translates into English as “Green Wine”. The interesting point about this is that the varietal is a unique sub-classified European region of its own in the categorisation of wines.
Vinho Verde is not a grape variety rather, it’s a DOC designation that means wines are made in well-defined regions, and according to specific wine-making rules intended to preserve local traditions. Green wine also means young wine, and with this varietal the vintage is usually released within three-to-six months of the grapes being harvested, and is consumed soon after bottling. In its early years of production, there was a slight effervescence to the wine caused by malolactic fermentation taking place in the bottle. In winemaking this is normally considered a production fault but Vinho Verde producers found that drinkers enjoyed the effervescence on their palate. Nowadays, however, most Vinho Verde producers no longer follow this practice and if there is a slight sparkle, it comes from carbonation by design.
The ALLO 2018 is yellow in colour, and has a strong citrus flavour with an elegant mineral profile, and the 11 per cent alcohol level makes for easy drinking. The friendly name ALLO, originates from the blend of Alvarinho and Loureiro grapes the Alvarinho, full of tropical fruit and structure, makes a great contrast to the Loureiro, which is floral and full of elegance.
It’s a dry white that is fresh on the palate. “The acidity stimulates a waterfall effect when you taste it, making this a good pairing for starters,” says Chaves. Due to high acidity levels, and the citrus and floral notes of this wine, matching it with the brininess of the scallops enhances the mild sweetness of green pea purèe on the side.
The attention to detail that Chaves displays is thoughtful and poetic. “The Vinho Verde region is located beside the shores of Northern Portugal, and the seaside location, along with its saltiness, seeps into the grape, producing its incredibly fresh flavour,” he says. “In this case, the terroir matches the dish.”
Valle Pradinhos Red Reserva 2015
Octopus rice with Alentejo chouriço sausage and lemon foam
Not only has the Valle Pradinhos estate been established since 1913, the northern estate has been operating for more than a century managed by four generations of women with Maria Antónia Pinto de Azevedo Mascarenhas the current owner. Since she took over the management of the property in 1994, she has implemented her vision of winemaking in the production process, leading to numerous awards and accolades. The wines are a blend of native grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela and Malvasia Fina, and renowned international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer and Riesling.
The Red Reserva 2015 is a robust wine with sharp tannin elements. There is some Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend that brings hints of blackcurrants and violets on the nose. The taste of berries goes well with salty octopus, which is also incredibly tender.
The tannins then kick in to tease at the pepper notes of the chouriço sausage, ushering in the berry and blackcurrant of the wine. The oak which the Valle Pradinhos estate uses for its barrels is famous and when the riot of berry aromas subside, a bouquet of vanilla from the superior barrels emerges from the throat.
This is a good time to take a bite of the smoky rice to allow the effects of this wine to linger.
Serra Mãe Red Reserva 2015
Suckling pig confit, turnip top purée, pickled onions, pepper jus
As another testament to the attention to detail by Chaves, his next wine to pair with suckling pig confit, turnip top purée, pickled onions, pepper jus, is named after a book that was set to the backdrop of the mountains of the Portuguese shore region near Lisbon.
Written by Sebastião da Gama, who was a professor at the Veiga Beirão Commercial and Industrial School in Lisbon, the book is a collection of poems dedicated to the picturesque area.
The wine by itself has strong wood and burnt toast flavours, which work with the rich red fruit to give a dense wine that is a full bodied with plenty of backbone. That said, the wine is young, still very fruity and ripe, and likely to age well. It’s smooth on the tongue with a velvety texture that balances the natural fatness of the pork, and the slightly toasted oak notes will be a perfect combination with the pepper jus.