How many people know that Portugal is the fourth largest producer of tomatoes in the world? If you open a can of tomatoes or pour tomato ketchup on your food you will have almost certainly eaten wonderfully ripe tomatoes from Portugal. Only the USA, China and Italy produce more. Portugal’s agriculture is undergoing a timely revival, helped (ironically) by the financial crisis. Land that was as good as abandoned five years ago is suddenly coming into production again and Portugal is moving much closer to national self- sufficiency in many areas. It is a symptom of the crisis that even tiny plots of urban land on roundabouts or alongside motorway slip roads are being cultivated for food. Alongside tomatoes, Portugal has a surplus of milk and rice for export as well as wine. The country has 230,000 hectares of vineyard in production making it the twelfth largest wine producing country in the world. Exports are thriving (up by 8% on 2011) but I still can’t help feeling that we could be doing more to improve the country’s image. As wine producers looking to export we are partly handicapped by the fact the Portuguese cooking is still a Portuguese secret. Although the Portuguese have travelled the world, unlike France, Italy and Spain, they have kept their food to themselves. Where outside Portugal (apart possibly from Brazil) can you find good caldo verde, bacalhau à braz, arroz de marisco, arroz de pato, feijoada andqueijo da serra, all of which go so well with good Portuguese wines? About the only food from Portugal to reach the UK’s shores is frango (chicken) piri-piri and the pastel de nata, neither of which are a good match for wine. Portugal is missing a trick and the revival in domestic agriculture has sadly not been accompanied by any improvement in generic marketing abroad.
19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)
17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)
15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)
13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)
10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)
8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)
Below 8 Faulty