Alongside sun-drenched beaches and historical villages, the Algarve, the southernmost region of continental Portugal, is packed with choices for anyone with a passion for simple, lovingly prepared local food and wine.
Portuguese wine is among one of the world’s most famous wines. In fact, Portugal is the seventh largest wine producer in the world.
A lot of the wine sold in the Algarve comes from other parts of Portugal (for example from Porto in the north, Estremadura near Lisbon and Alentejo) but the Algarve does also produce its own wine. The Algarve has always produced wines but in later years the wineries have concentrated on quality rather than quantity and now produce some excellent wine. Today there are 24 producers in the Algarve, spreading from Lagos to Tavira, with vines growing on a variety of soils: lithic, red clay, sand, limestone and Silves sandstone.
The Algarve has the perfect climate for the growing of vines; it’s never too hot, never too cold.
Most of Algarve’s wines comes from Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa and Tavira areas. Lagos has six producers, spread from Barão de São João to Odiáxere. There is the Herdade do Soromenho, which won a silver medal for its DOP Lagos Reserva Tinto; Quinta dos Lopes, which produces organic wine; and Monte da Casteleja, which has an excellent red, Maria Selection Tinto (on Monte da Casteleja it’s produce high quality wines, white, red and rosê with portuguese varieties).
The new addictions in Lagos are Quinta da Horta Nova, which only produces reds; Monte do Além, which makes a delicious red, Monte do Além Petit Verdot Tinto; and Quinta do Eucalipto, which is also known for breeding Lusitano horses.
Portimão boasts three excellent well-established wineries, the Herdade do Morgado da Torre in a perfect spot between the Ria de Alvor wetlands and the hills of Monchique, this is one of the oldest and most renowned vineyards in the Algarve which produces Alcalar, the only Algarve wine to be made with foot-trodden grapes; and Quinta da Penina, well known for its Foral de Portimão Petit Verdot Tinto.
Lagoa has some excellent wineries, such as Quinta dos Vales, in Estombar, where renowned winemakers Paulo Laureano and Dorina Lindemann guarantee excellent wines that have garnered more national and international awards than any other producer in the region.
There is also Quinta do Francês, perched on the hills of the Odelouca river valley, making some of the Algarve’s best reds, and Quinta do Barranco Longo, whose Remexido red and white are particularly good.
Well known for being Cliff Richard’s winery is the Quinta do Moinho (former Adega do Cantor), which benefits from David Baverstock’s world-class experience. New producers have appeared in the Lagoa region, including Monte dos Salicos, producing two reds; Quinta de Mata-Mouros which joined forces with Herdade da Malhadinha Nova (Alentejo) in 2012; Quinta das Barradas, which also has a restaurant where you can taste the locally produced wines; and Quinta da Malaca, a family-run vineyard producing excellent reds and rosés.
Tavira only has one producer, Quinta dos Correias, which has been around for centuries but recently planted new vines and modernized its techniques. Being the only producer in this DOP region, it is sought after but not only for its exclusivity – it also produces excellent quality wine.
This year alone, Algarve wine ‘Portas da Luz’ from producer Casa Santos Lima won best Portuguese Wine in Vin Expo’s Citadelles du Vin 2017 and ‘Cabrita Native Grapes – Negra Mole – 2015’ won a gold medal in Brussels competition.
The very freshest fish and seafood come from the sea, and are the main ingredients in the Algarve cuisine. They are joined by vegetables and fruits whose flavours the sun has made sublime, and their combination provide the elements for a dining experience that you will never forget.
There are a few dishes that you have to try if you come to Algarve such as:
Arroz de Peixe (Fish rice) when well done this is one of the most delicious dishes you can have. A medley of fresh fish cooked with rice, tomatoes and peppers. Very importantly – it should be garnished with plenty of fresh coriander or fresh mint. The herbs give it that real Algarve taste.
Massada de Peixe (fish with pasta), similar to the dish above, the massada de peixe uses pasta rather than rice, again with plenty of herbs. This dish should come with plenty of stock and can be eaten with a spoon.
Feijoada de Buzinas, this translates as Bean stew with Whelks. Bean stews are common in Portuguese cooking – this version is the Algarve variant on the theme. Different types of beans are used in these dishes and the shellfish gives a distinctive flavour.
Caldeirada a fish stew that is as simple as it is delicious. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and fresh fish cooked in white wine and, once again, garnished with plenty of herbs.
Cataplana served in the distinctive copper dishes, this dish can be made with pork and clams (very Algarve) with fish, chicken or rabbit.
Piri piri grilled chicken is made from a spicy South African marinade. It got its start in the Algarve’s city of Guia.Piri Piri is a hot, spicy sauce or oil, coated onto the meat as it cooks and is a must for every visitor to try at least once.
Bacalhau is probably one of the most traditional dishes that you’ll find in the Algarve. It is dried salt-cod, preserved in the same way as it was in the days of the first sea voyages in the time of the Portuguese Discoveries, reportedly there are 365 different ways of cooking it.
Doce Fino do Algarve (marzipan sweets) – are the small marzipan treats shaped and sculpted in different forms, usually fruit but also animals and even people, beautifully colored and amazingly lifelike. Made from almond paste, they are part of a tradition that can trace its roots back to the Moorish times, this is an excellent dessert
In addition to the many restaurants where you can taste these specialties in the summer, there are seafood festivals in Olhão and Faro, near Ria Formosa. So if you are a food and wine lover you should definitely come to Algarve and appreciate the delicious food and wine that it has.