The Minho region of Northern Portugal became the first partner in the European Region of Gastronomy Programme to officially announce plans for its programme. The event for 2016 was officially launched on May 31st 2014 at a ceremony held at the School of Agriculture at the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo. The event was presided by Nuno Vieira e Brito, Secretary of State for Food and Agribusiness Research, Rui Teixeira, President of the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo, and Francisco Calheiros, Director of Minho-IN. The meeting was attended by representatives of the 24 municipalities in the Minho and the Confraternities of Gastronomy of the Minho region.
Francisco Calheiros outlined the development of the ERG programme to date, including the recent meeting in Den Bosch (Netherlands) that had laid the basis for the initial consortium of European regions to develop the title. The Minho region will be one of the first regions to hold the title, which will begin in 2016.
The region sees gastronomy as an important economic impulse, a means of conserving culture and identity and as a creative industry that can help develop innovation and creativity. Calheiros also emphasised that the event will also help to emphasise the unity and diversity of Europe, supporting social cohesion, increasing competitiveness and showcasing the uniqueness of European food and cuisine. Minho-IN also intends to present a portfolio on the ERG to the European Commission in Brussels.
Ana Paula Vale, Director of the School of Agriculture outlined plans for a Regional Centre for Gastronomy at the Polytechnic, which will become a focus for innovation and valorisation of local food products. She outlined the many different roles of local food products in supporting gastronomic tourism, supporting local agriculture, and preserving gastronomic tradition. The new centre will play an important role in knowledge development and education in local gastronomy in order to support the gastronomic culture and innovative capacity of the region.
The role of Confraternities of Gastronomy in preparing for Minho-2016 European Region of Gastronomy was outlined by Carlos Fernandes, Head of Tourism at the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo. He emphasised that the development of local gastronomy had long been a priority in the Minho region, in part thanks to the efforts of Francisco Sampaio, former head of the Confraternity, who had the foresight to help organise a meeting on traditional gastronomy with the support of ATLAS in Viana do Castelo in 2001. In recent years the Minho region has reinvented itself as a tourist destination, and 2014-2015 will be a period of preparation for the ERG in terms of resource mapping, training for food suppliers, networking projects, gastronomic prizes and awards and linking vinho verde wines more closely with local gastronomy. Together, the Confraternities will be working to put Minho cuisine of the European gastronomic map.
The ceremonies included the signing of a participation agreement of Minho-IN with IGCAT, the international body responsible for awarding the European Region of Gastronomy title. The agreement was signed on behalf of IGCAT by President Greg Richards, Minho-IN Director Francisco Calheiros and Rui Teixeira, President of the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo.
The launch was concluded with a tasting of local food and wine, which included locally-raised beef and vinho verde wines.