The 9th edition of the Best of Portugal festival took place in Brussels’ Parc du Cinquantenaire on the 17th and 18th of June. As is already a tradition, Portuguese producers came to the heart of the European capital to showcase their products and offer guests a taste of the best that Portugal has to offer, while several well-known musicians kept the more than 40,000 visitors entertained throughout the weekend.
Organized by the Confederation of Portuguese Farmers (CAP), the event’s main goal is to promote the Portuguese agri-food sector to Benelux exporters, mainly in the Belgian market. “The goal is to promote the best that is produced in Portugal, especially its quality products, such as wines, olive oils, fruits and vegetables, honeys, cheeses and sausages, among other products in the agri-food chain”, explained CAP President Álvaro Mendonça e Moura. More than 50 companies from Portugal and 10 restaurants welcomed visitors this year.
With over 50 producers, this is the largest edition we’ve had so far and next year we will try to do even better.Álvaro Mendonça e Moura, President of CAP
1. Guest of honour: CIM Douro
This year, the guest of honour was CIM Douro, a community of 19 municipalities from the Douro region in the north of Portugal. The region has Portugal’s highest wine classification as a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) and is registered as a Protected Designation of Origin under EU and UK law, as well as a Geographical Indication in several other countries through bilateral agreements.
In June of 2023, the Douro Valley was named European Wine City 2023. The Douro World Heritage site has thus become a European reference in wine, vineyards, culture and the harmonious celebration of nature and the secular work done by generations of people living in the area. “All Around Wine, All Around Douro” is the motto the region has chosen to symbolize the present and future of the territory.
While the region is best known for Port wine production, the Douro offers a much larger variety of wines, which 16 small to medium producers came to showcase in Brussels. “There are mostly small producers here because these are the ones we want to highlight and we want to help them penetrate the Benelux market, especially since there is a large Portuguese community here”, said the CIM Douro’s President Carlos Silva Santiago.
Quinta da Deserta is a small wine producer from the central part of Douro. They only make about 14,000 – 15,000 thousand bottles of wine each year, from which about 4,000 are part of the Grand Reserve. They still keep traditional wine-making methods of production, including stomping the grapes.
Next tent over, one of the larger producers from the participants to the festival, the 100 Hectares is named after the surface of the vineyard. The bottles that are not decorated with 100 little colourful squares, one for each hectare of land, display a beautiful leaf-resembling embellishment, an homage to the winemaker’s father who makes the ornament out of gold as jewellery.
Close by, Gerações de Xisto offered not only incredibly fragrant wines, but also lavender honey, olive oil and olive oil soaps, delicately wrapped in cork, as they’ve discovered it keeps the soap fresh much longer than paper or any other wrapping material.
Sharing the tent was Quinta da Coitada, a family enterprise passed down from the current owner’s grand grandfather. The winery only produces about 66,000 bottles per year. It has the ability to make much more, the producer told Travel Tomorrow, but it’s just him, his wife and his son and they want to keep the business in the family.
2. Returning guests
Last year’s guest of honour, the municipality of Santarém, returned with an even higher morale this year. “The producers loved it last year and they asked us to come back”, Nuno Russo, City Councillor of Santarém told Travel Tomorrow. Since most of them sold out last year, they came better prepared, with larger stocks, for the 9th edition, Russo explained, especially when it comes to olive oil, the production of which has been greatly impacted by climate change.
We are certainly coming back again next year, especially since we will be the Portuguese city of wine 2024.Nuno Russo, City Councillor of Santarém
My all-time favourite gin, Gotik, had its well distinguished purple stand again, while a few tents over, the Landscape Farm came back with its delicious olive oil. Among the wide choice of wines, Queijo da Quinta offered several cheeses, while Mushrooms Mountain came to the rescue of vegetarian or vegan guests with a selection of wild mush, fresh or cooked on the spot.
Other regions were also represented on the festival grounds. Ponte da Barca is a natural reserve, where villagers can still live on the premises. All of the products made in the region come from these villages, including a variety of chorizos, wines and sparkling wines. In a different tent, the traditional liquor from Óbidos awaited curious guests. Called Ginja, it is based on clear grape alcohol that is then infused with macerated sour cherries from the Serra da Estrela Mountain.
3. Portuguese diaspora
Four stands were dedicated to Portuguese establishments in Brussels: Caixa General de Depósitos (CGD), the only Portuguese bank with an office in Belgium; la Petite Portugaise, a bookshop dedicated to Portuguese speaking authors, the only one of its kind in Belgium; Femmes d’Europe, an association established 50 years ago that currently has more than 800 members, all women volunteers, and funds projects that create a long lasting impact for women and children from disadvantaged communities; and Afectos com Letras, an NGO working on education, health and girls’ empowerment in Guinea-Bissau.