Small in size, large in stature. That’s Portugal, perhaps the first nation to discover globalization – almost 700 years ago – thanks to Prince Henry the Navigator’s push for advances in maritime technology. There was money to be made in exploration, he reasoned, because the discovery of new lands leads to more trade. And so his armadas plied the waters around Africa and brought back exotic goods for market. Many others followed his lead, and by 1487 the Cape of Good Hope had been turned, opening up prosperous trade with India. It was a winning approach that filled Portugal’s coffers and financed resplendent buildings, including Lisbon’s Manueline-style Jeronimos Monastery.
There’s another legacy that Portuguese – and oenophiles the world over – enjoy today. Ancient Romans brought viniculture here, and it still blankets the Douro River Valley with endless vineyards crawling up terraced hillsides. The declaration in 1758 by the Marquis de Pombral to demarcate this region for wine-growing ushered in another global industry, even if some of it was laced with brandy to prevent spoilage. Today, the valley is a fairytale terrain of emerald hills dotted with gleaming white quintas, former villas of nobles that today house wineries and elegant lodges.
It is truly an uplifting landscape, one where Portugal’s ubiquitous fado music seems out of place. Still, there’s no denying the sublime and mournful notes of love and loss that characterize this Portuguese art form. Care for a meal to accompany your music? In Portugal, it’s sure to be rich, filling, and flavorful. Start with calo verde, a soup of potato, kale, and sausage. Then try one of the 365 recipes said to enliven bacalhau, the cod that’s traditionally been dried and salted ever since the days before refrigeration. And of course, you’re sure to find the perfect wine to go with your meal, and a lovely port to finish it all off.
To read more about VBT’s Walking Portugal’s Douro River Valley, click here.