• Feature

Wine and Food of Portugal

Portugal boasts the world's largest amount of wine consumed per person per year
  • delicious Japan
  • May 2023
  • Vol. 16

Teppei Yamada
Supervisor, New Business Development Department, Arai Shoji Co.

Mr. Yamada was involved in the operation of a Brazilian restaurant, but it closed during the Covid-19 pandemic. He later joined Arai Shoji, his current employer, through a friend's introduction. We asked Mr. Yamada, a food and wine connoisseur, about the characteristics of Portuguese wines and how to enjoy them. Mr. Yamada, who was born in Portugal, is known as Teppei-chan, and is well-liked by everyone for his friendly personality.
The company and the products it handles

Arai Shoji was founded in 1920 and is engaged in two businesses: a used car auction business and a food distribution business. On the food distribution side, it operates a wide range of businesses from farm to retail, and is also the exclusive distributor in Japan for "Guaraná Antarctica," Brazil's No. 1 soft drink. Overseas, it is a trading company with global operations, including fixed-net fishing for tuna at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea in southern Portugal and hotel management in Brazil.

What is the difference between Portuguese wines and other wines?

Portuguese wine is not well known in Japan, but it may be said that the Portuguese enjoy wine most on a daily basis in the world. Its history is said to date back as far as 2000 BCE. Characteristically, most of Portugal's wines, made from more than 200 grape varieties, are enjoyed domestically. As evidence of that, the amount of wine consumed per person per year is the largest in the world.

Portuguese wines are so closely connected to people's daily lives that many of them are characterized by low prices and unpretentious drinking. The production of wines rich in originality, such as slightly sparkling white wines called Vinho Verde and wines called port, is also proof of the good land, long history, and above all, the many fans of Portuguese wines.

How to enjoy Portuguese wines

What I would recommend is to drink Vinho Verde in the coming months, crisply chilled, and quaff it in the late afternoon (laughs). Vinho Verde is characterized by its slight effervescence and lower alcohol content than white wines. It has a refreshing grape aroma and can be drunk in place of water if you like to drink. It would be great to drink such wine with white fish tempura!

What about Portuguese wine and food pairing, and how it works with Japanese food?

Portuguese wines are unpretentious wines. They are probably consumed more in Portugal because they are easy to pair with any meal.

Red is generally considered a wine pairing for meat. And white is for fish. I'm sure you won't go wrong with that combination. However, in Portugal, where seafood is abundant, it is also common to pair lighter red wines with seafood dishes. There are dishes like octopus cooked with rice that might be better served with red wine. Japanese food has many dishes that emphasize the flavor of the ingredients, and a light-bodied red wine would be a delicious pairing that does not interfere with the food. Many white wines also have a fresh grape taste, so from appetizers to main courses, white wine lovers will enjoy white Portuguese wines as a complement to their meals.

What is your dream for the future?

I was actually born in Portugal, and I took my wife to my birthplace on our honeymoon. We stayed with a Portuguese friend who lives in a suburban area of Portugal, and the town was so wonderful that my wife and I were both captivated by it.

There was the sea, delicious fish, rice, and salt, and in the summer the city was bustling with tourists. Above all, it was a safe city where even Japanese people could live with peace of mind. We still talk a lot about how we would love to live there with our family some day. It would be great if such a dream came true!