Portugal, a vastly underestimated country for its unadulterated beauty, diverse gastronomy and some of the warmest people you will find anywhere in the world. Strong statement? Maybe, but over the last decade, we have taken numerous trips across the long meandering coastline and have yet to find someone unwilling to lend a helping hand, extend a warm smile or simply say ‘hello’. It is this level of kindness and consideration that has quickly made Portugal one of our favorite countries in the world.
Portugal can also boast of an incredibly diverse landscape. You can travel in a single day from lush, green mountains in the North, covered with vines and all varieties of trees to rocky mountains, with spectacular highland views and waterfalls in the center, to an arid dry landscape in the Alentejo region – boasting of wild flowers and cork trees, and finally to the relaxing beach destination of the Algarve in the far South. However, despite this fantastic diversity, there are some constants throughout.
Azulejos, the famed painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tile found across the entire country, whether it be a small square gracing someone’s front door, or blanketing an entire palace with vibrant stories. These same tiles can be found in a myriad of colors, patterns, sizes and locations on a given structure, but rarely lack in personality.
Another constant, the most important to Catavino, is Portugal’s very rich and diverse gastronomy. Portugal not only lays claim to founding the very first wine producing regions in the world, the Douro, but also having one of the most diverse collections of native grapes in the world. If you consider its distinct microclimates, you can imagine the variation in personality that each grape possess; whereby creating a perfect palate for winemakers to paint with. From light, effervescent white Vinho Verde wines in the north, to intense flavor driven still and fortified wines in the Douro, and from sweet and unctuous dessert wines in Setubal to spicy, rich reds in the Alentejo, there really is no one “flavor” that encompasses Portugal. Consider this your vinous playground. Equally true, we can consider Portugal a culinary patchwork of texture, flavor and aroma when considering regional dishes such as: cozido à portuguesa, caldo verde or bacalhau assado, not to mention the vast amount of regional cheeses, breads and seafood.
Here on our Portugal Food & Wine Tours page we aim to introduce you to the different regions you might want to explore, and what you might find there, as well as hand pick some extensive multi-day vacations that will introduce you to the heart of Portuguese wine and cuisine. Whether you want to spend your time enjoying guided wine tasting with the country’s top wine makers in sun-kissed vineyards, take a petiscos tour of a dynamic city like Lisbon or Porto, visit an cheese house in Estremadura, learn how to make an authentic Francesinha with local chefs, go shopping in some of the world’s best food markets or go fine dining in Michelin-starred restaurants we will find the perfect tour for you. We’ve also searched for culinary experiences that will also introduce you to the fascinating art, history and culture – and people – of this unique country. So buckle up… it’s going to be one hell of a ride!
PORTUGAL FOOD & WINE TOURS BY REGION/CITY
Find more info on the different regions and cities below, along with links to which experiences we recommend in each destination. If you need a customized tour just for you, don’t hesitate to contact us!
In the last few years, Lisbon has been vigorously reinventing its classic Portuguese cuisine with a new,
refined flair. Whilst there are still plenty of mom and pop tascas and tabernas serving the classics, several new high-end gourmet-style versions have been opening in vast numbers throughout the downtown and other affluent neighborhoods. Not only that but wine-bars have been flourishing across the city, catering to the still niche market. Gourmet stores are also mushrooming in downtown Lisbon, reigniting the tradition of Portuguese canned fish, sweet jams and preserved fruits by repackaging them in colorful, artistic new containers and selling them at higher prices. Ethnic restaurants from former colonies have become more popular in recent years, especially Brazilian, Goan and African cuisines. Sushi has become the “in-fashion” food of the moment, with many new highly-acclaimed Japanese restaurants applying fusion with local Portuguese fish and ingredients. Typical wine and food tours of Lisbon might include day trips from Lisbon to the Setubal wine region, a petisco tour of Lisbon itself, or a guided walk around hidden gourmet markets followed by cooking classes.
For details on specific tours & experiences, head to the following pages:
Atlantic to the west, rivers to the north, mountains to the east: Porto is spectacularly placed to garner ingredients. There is wonderful fish and seafood, rare breed meats, stunning charcuterie, fruit, nuts and vegetables. Porto has its signature dishes, but it also serves the traditional cuisine of all the northern regions, copious cooking for rural, manual workers, heavy on potatoes, rice and bread – yes, all at once. Alongside tradition, modern cooking has recently come to Porto – a little later and slower to take off than Lisbon’s culinary revolution, but now rapidly gaining pace. Every month brings another new restaurant serving sensibly modest portions on beautifully arranged plates, still based on those great ingredients, with traditional themes tweaked. Blink, and a new bar appears, selling wine by the glass and petiscos – Portugal’s answer to tapas. The Japanese have also spotted that fresh fish – there’s good sushi to be had in Porto.
Geographically-speaking Porto is perfectly situated in the very heart of wine country, and from hence is the ideal starting point for day trips, or longer excursions to the wine regions of Vinho Verde, Douro and the Dão. Here you will be able to partake in guided wine tastings, inspect the workings of the local wineries and see the grapes being grown and harvested on the vines in the vineyards themselves.
For more info on tours in Porto and Northern Portugal, head to the following pages:
The Algarve is incredibly rich in culture and diversity, especially if you’re looking for a surfing, trekking or simple food friendly experience. The entire region contains over 100 beaches that are unique and brimming with biodiversity. For the nature lovers, you can choose from over 30 hiking trails including: the Ria Formosa, Monchique mountain, Caldeirão mountains and Sagres cape. For golf aficionados there are over 30 courses dotted throughout the region, not to mention enough restaurants to keep the gourmand satiated.
The Algarve’s gastronomy, east to west, would be best described as a rustic twist to Mediterranean, and very much from sun, earth and ocean. Traditional Algarvio’s insist on using the region’s infinite nutrient resources and demand fresh, honest and unpretentious ingredients that you can smell, feel, taste and cook with the guidance of a local expert. Allow our tour guides to inform you on the history and culture of the stable Portuguese food, ‘bacalao’ (salt fish), alongside freshly caught fish and seafood. Experience exotic lands while touring sacks of curries from India, piri piri and rich spices from Africa. In the Algarve’s city of Guia, as per locals, is where some of the best ‘frango piri piri’ (spicy grilled chicken) got its fame, although it originated in Africa during the colonization period. Romans left their mark with olives, and olive oil and cheese production, of which you will find a dizzying selection. Enjoy the Celtic carry over of meat preservation with the savory ‘linguiça’ and ‘chouriço’ (cured sausages first marinated with herbs, wine and red spices), or the popular stew sausage known as ‘alheira’ (pork free garlic sausage). Moorish influences have prolonged throughout the region, with grilling of meats and fish, strong uses of herbs: garlic, mint, thyme, cilantro, and spices: cumin, paprika, saffron – the list is long, very long. A large variety of nuts: almonds, pine nuts, as well as many varieties of fruits: oranges, figs, pomegranates and exotic varieties of berries are also part of this culinary mashup, and enjoyed fresh, and where possible dried to keep during winter months. Staples such as rice, grains and beans also make a mark in both savory and sweet dishes. And we’re not done, yet. The region, and country, also appears to have a strange obsession with yogurt, every variety and possible flavor combination imaginable seems available; belief exists this too may be carry over of Moorish influences. To enjoy a gourmet food or market tour with our guides is to walk through an exotic land very rarely visited if on your own.
For more info on tours in Southern Portugal, head to the following pages: