Exploring Portuguese Dry Red Wines with Pork Ribs

Three dry red wines from Portugal

I’m a big Port fan, it’s time to explore the dry red wines of Portugal

Portugal is More Than Just Port
If you’re like me, your knowledge of Portuguese wines includes Vinho Verde and Port, but little else. Based on my enthusiasm for Port, the folks at Wines of Portugal decided I needed to see a few more wines from their country, and they sent me a couple of bottles of dry red table wine to assist in my education. Thanks!

Barbecued ribs and three Portuguese dry red wines

An unusually balmy pre-spring day in Minnesota: ribs and Portuguese reds

Wines of Portugal
The  Wines of Portugal website is a great place to start your education about both the history and what’s going on today in the world of Portuguese wines.

Portugal wine map

Portugal wine region map courtesy of Wines of Portugal website

I was anticipating the wines would be fairly ripe and fruit forward, as I generally think of Portugal as a warm place. I was hoping I was at least close! I had originally thought of trying the wines with some rich, winter braised dishes, but we had an unusually warm spring in Minnesota this year. With the warm weather, I decided to try some slow smoked barbecued ribs.

José Maria da Fonseca
This is from the José Maria da Fonseca website:

“José Maria da Fonseca is the oldest and one of the most prestigious wineries in Portugal, producing wines, Port and Setubal Moscatel. The Soares Franco family owns José Maria da Fonseca and has been involved in the wine business for over 178 years. With over 650 hectares of land under vine in our main wine regions: Península de Setúbal, Alentejo and Douro, José Maria Fonseca also boasts Portugal’s largest winery, with capacity to produce 6.5 million litres of wine in a totally computerised operation.”

José Maria da Fonseca Periquita Reserva 2013 from the Azeitao region

José Maria da Fonseca Periquita Reserva 2013 from the Azeitao region

José Maria da Fonseca Periquita Reserva 2013 (sample, $15 suggested retail)
From the José Maria da Fonseca website:

“Type of soil:  Sandy
Vinification: Fermentation lasts for about 7 days at 28ºC with full skin contact.
Ageing: 7 months in oak (new and used)
Serving suggestions: Excellent with red meat and cheese. Serve at a temperature of 13oC, consume at 16ºC.
Storage: The bottles should be laid down at a temperature of 12oC and 60% humidity.
Shelf life: 8 years after bottling
Grapes: Castelão (72%), Trincadeira (13%) and Aragonez (15%)

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes
Colour: Dark ruby
Aroma: Blueberries, cassis, mineral, figs, blackpepper and licorice.
Palate Fruity, very fine, fruit / acidity well balanced with soft tannins.
Finish: Medium”

My Impressions:
Eye: Clear, deepest medium++ intensity ruby with a ruby edge
Nose: Clean, Cedar/evergreen notes in front almost hiding the fruit. Fresh blue fruit
Mouth: Dry, but nice fruit. medium acidity, medium+ tannins. Nice lingering fruit finish with herbs mixed in.

Monte dos Cabaços
From the winery website:

“Joaquim and Margarida Cabaço are from Estremoz, from a little village beautifully called GLORIA- but one gets a sense of a more cosmopolitan background. In fact, it’s no surprise to learn they have both lived in Paris, Buenos Aires and Milan. They opted to come back to countryside life in the early 1980s. In 1982, they moved to an old house that had no fridge or electricity. Still, they invited people over all the time, and Margarida learned how to cook on a wood burning stove. With her husband Joaquim they reconstructed the house into a charming puzzle of new rooms and huge fireplaces, had 4 children, started Monte dos Cabaços winery in 1983 and finally, opened the restaurant S. Rosas in 1994, one of the most acclaimed in Portugal.

MONTE DOS CABAÇO (translates to Cabaços House) was founded in 1982 in Estremoz, a city famed for its marble. Joaquim is an experienced viticulturist, and between 1992 and 1998 he bought an additional 30 hectares of carefully selected land and decided which varietals to plant. Today, Monte dos Cabaços has a total of 80 hectares at an average altitude is 400 meters. Joaquim continues to sell the majority of the fruit to neighbors and uses its best for the Monte dos Cabaços wines. The winery has a small team: Joaquim as viticulturist, famed winemaker Susana Esteban as winemaker, and mother Margarida and daughter Marta Cabaço responsible for the daily logistics of the business. Harvesting has been done by the same team for the past 20 years. Monte dos Cabaços stays true to the Alentejo quality of tranquility and patience. In order to showcase the very best that their wines are capable of expressing, they delay release of their wines until ready. In that vein, their current releases are 2 year old whites, and 6 and 7 year old reds.”

Monte dos Cabaços Tinto red wine from Portugal

Monte dos Cabaços Tinto

Monte dos Cabaços Colheita Selecionada 2009 (sample, suggested retail: $ 21)
From the winery website:

“Grapes:45% Alicante Bouschet, 30% Touriga Nacional, 20% Aragonez, 5% Cabernet. Vines planted from 1982-1992. Tended in clay and loam soil at 400 m (1,312 ft) elevation. This is a vegan wine.
Vinification and ageing
Harvested by hand in small boxes, grapes are selected at the winery. Fermented in a conical small capacity tank, with temperature control followed by manual pumping, and post fermenting maceration. Aged entirely in stainless steel tanks until bottling. It is aged 5 to 6 years in the bottle until release.
Tasting notes
Rich, ripe, blackcurrant fruit, notes of pen ink, an opaque purple color, beautiful density, beautiful fruit and silky tannin are all present in this naked, unoaked and rather hefty dry red wine. Drink it over the next 5-7 years.
Pairing Suggestions
This is a wine that craves robust flavors grilled and roasted meats, particularly beef, lamb and game, are a perfect pair here.”

My Impressions:
Eye: Clear, medium++ ruby with ruby edge. Barely visible to bottom
Nose: Clean, tight and shy nose. Medium- intensity.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ acidity, medium- tannins. Fresh blue fruit, not oak aged, so pure, pretty fruit.

Feuerheerd’s was founded in 1815 by the German trader Dietrich Matthias Feuerheerd who established his business in Oporto. In 1926 the company was sold to the Barros family and in 2007 to Quinta D. Matilde – Vinhos, Lda which is owned by some members of the Barros family. Feuerheerd’s became famous over the years for the quality of its wines, especially a few of its Vintage Port. Nowadays, the brand acquired by Barão de Vilar – Vinhos, SA, giving birth to a new partnership between the Van Zellers and the Barros family, determined to revive the long tradition of quality of Feuerheerd’s wines.

Fuerheerd's Douro DOC Dry Red Wine

Fuerheerd’s Douro DOC Red

Feuerheerd’s Douro 2013 (sample, suggested retail: $ 14)
From the Feuerheerd’s website:

“Grape Varieties: Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional
Alcohol: 13.5 %
Tasting Notes: Feuerheerd’s Red is a blend that expresses perfectly the Douro wines character. Fruity, well-structured and elegant as Douro wine can be.”

My Tasting Notes:
Eye: clear, medium++ intensity ruby with a purple edge
Nose: Clean, medium- intensity, a shy nose. tight. fresh blackberries, with some herbal character.
Mouth: Dry, nice lean, not overripe fruit. Medium acidity, medium tannins, blue fruit – fresh blackberries

A Portuguese rub for ribs, this takes a different slant from the typical American treatment

A Portuguese rub for ribs, this takes a different slant from the typical American treatment

Slow smoked pork ribs with a Portugese rub

The parika gives the ribs an orange hue, a bit different from the usual.

So how did the pairing work out with the Portuguese approach to BBQ ribs with big red dry wines from the same geography? Great! Read on:

Ribs, arugula & spinach salad, and pickled vegetables. A different take on BBQ

Ribs, arugula & spinach salad, and pickled vegetables. A different take on BBQ

Portuguese Barbecue with Portuguese Reds
The ribs were a real treat. I have been looking for some alternatives to the standard American BBQ lexicon of spicy rub + sweet barbecue sauce.  The rub for these ribs is strongly based on paprika and there is no sugar in the rub or the sauce.  This made the ribs pair beautifully with the deeply fruity but dry red wines.  I didn’t go too heavily on the piri-piri sauce as I didn’t want the spiciness to clash with any tannins (somewhat unknown before we started) in the wines.

Mustard was a surprise win accompaniment to the rub on the ribs, and the pickled veggies and simple salad made a familiar meal taste like a brand new treat. We’ll be serving this Portuguese style barbecue with Portuguese wines again, a fun addition!

Disclosure: My thanks to the Wines of Portugal for supplying the three wines as samples. I appreciate the opportunity to expand my understanding of Portuguese wines.  All opinions are mine.

Portuguese Barbecued Pork Ribs


  • 3 lbs. pork ribs
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • 4 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 4 oz. dry white wine
  • 3 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh by leaf, finely chopped
  • A few drops of piri-piri sauce, or another hot pepper sauce such as Frank’s hot sauce
  • A pinch of kosher salt


  • Mix the ingredients and pour into a large freezer ziploc bag
  • Add the ribs and mix
  • Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours up to overnight
  • Set the grill for indirect heat with smoke, and pre-heat the grill to 225-250°F
  • Cook the ribs low and slow for 2 hours
  • Remove the ribs, wrap them in a double layer of foil and pour in a bit of the marinade. Seal the foil pouch and return to the grill for 1 hour
  • Tear open the foil, remove the ribs and grill for 1 final hour, basting with the remaining marinade.
  • Serve the ribs with dijon mustard for dipping, pickled vegetables, and a salad.

Explore Portuguese Wines paired with Portuguese BBQ




One Response to “Exploring Portuguese Dry Red Wines with Pork Ribs”
  1. I haven’t had wines from portugal in some time, but from the past I know they have always been great values. Seeing all this BBQ makes me excited for the warm weather to come too!

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