Today’s post is the third in an occasional series of food and wine pairings. In 2017, I wrote about Fontannafredda Barolo Riserva with dishes from the kitchen of Eataly in Manhattan’s Flatiron district (see Pairings: Fontanafredda at Eataly), and the sweet wines of Barsac’s Chateau Climens (see Pairings: Chateau Climens at Gotham Bar & Grill).

Mention Portugal to wine consumers and Port is the image they see. The picture probably includes sipping Port with cheese or nuts, or chocolate. But Portuguese wine producers make a plethora of red, white and rose’ wines that the average wine consumer hardly knows at all. So, what foods pair best with these wines?

A few months ago, Portuguese winemaker Domingos Soares Franco, representing the sixth generation of the family-run Jose Maria da Fonseca winery, explored this question with a presentation of wines at Manhattan’s Loring Place restaurant.

Domingos Soares Franco at Loring Place

Over generations, the family developed nearly 1,600 vineyard acres throughout Portugal. The signature winery is in Alentejo, in southern Portugal. Franco poured the 2016 Jose Maria da Fonseca Ripanco. Named for the traditional wooden grape sorting table, Ripanco is made with a small portion of sundried grapes.

This everyday wine has pronounced black cherry, black pepper and herbal aromas with a juicy, cherry taste. Red wines are rarely a good partner with peppery foods, and Loring Place’s mixed-grain salad’s chili aioli was kicked up an aggressive notch higher. Better to serve the 2016 Ripanco this summer with herb-seasoned or balsamic-marinated grilled chicken. 87 points. The retail price $10 to $12 encourages buying a case for your next party.

A better choice with the mixed grain salad was the 2015 Jose de Sousa. It’s a blend of three grapes, the primary being grand noir—a crossing of petit bouschet and amaron noir created in 1855—whose purpose it is to add color. It accomplished that task with the wine’s blackish tint, while the trincadeira and aragones grapes brought a substantial blackberry aroma and flavor. The very soft tannins and acidity married well with Loring Place’s Grandma-style tomato, mozzarella and basil pan pizza. 89 points. A good value at $15 retail price.

Periquita was first made in 1850 by the winery’s founder Jose Maria da Fonseca, and it is the oldest brand of Portuguese table wines. The vineyard and winery are located south of Lisbon in the Setubal Peninsula, It’s made from three grapes: castelao, touriga nacional and francesa—the latter two are the main varieties of Port.

The 2014 Periquita Reserva blackberry and herbal aromas offers a pleasant introduction to the wine. Its very flavorful blackberry and mulberry tastes carry a basic ruby port texture. It was too juicy for the pizza, but found its match with the plate of ricotta cavatelli coated with tomato and parmesan. 89 points. Party-priced at $12 to $16.

The Douro in northern Portugal is not only the Port region, but its home to dry red wines such as the 2014 Jose Maria da Fonseca Domini.  Made from three Port grapes—touriga nacional, touriga francesa and tinta roriz—it has an enticing black-cherry aroma and flavor. Slightly lighter on the palate than Periquita Reserve and with more minerality in the finish, it was best with the pizza. 88 points. It offers good-value at the lower end of the $13 to $17 price range.

The last red wine in the presentation was the 2014 Jose Maria da Fonseca Domini Plus.  Made from 95% touriga francesa, the black-cherry aroma gives no indication of the grapey black-fruit flavor and texture. It was best with the mixed grain salad, acceptable with the cavatelli, but fell short with the pizza. 87 points.  But selling from $30 to $40, why pay 300% more for this wine when you can buy any of the others that match well with foods likely to be served at a casual party or dinner?

At Loring Place, Chef Dan Kluger brings to his West Village restaurant years of cooking with the Danny Meyer restaurant group, and his first public platform as Executive Chef with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen where vegetables are in the spot-light.

The combination of Chef Kluger’s contemporary cooking and Jose Maria da Fonseca’s good-value priced wines created successful pairings that you can reproduce at your next party and summer’s barbecues.

Photos by John Foy