When asked to name some Portuguese wine, most of us immediately think of the famed Port wines, or perhaps the light-bodied, spritzy whites from Vinho Verde in the north or, maybe even one has memories of a dusty tannic red from the Dao region. Well so much has changed. Today Portugal is a hotbed of exciting new wines and wine regions, especially in the south, as I have been recently discovering.
Wine aging in barrels at Esporão's Alentejo winery.
One producer that particularly comes to mind is Esporão, which is also Portugal’s largest privately owned winery.
Recently with friends, I enjoyed the 2009 Esporão Reserva White, which comes from the southern wine region of Alentejo. It was delicious, inviting on the nose and layered with a medley of tropical fruit flavors, spice, and hints of vanilla. It had a rich creamy texture, which was wonderfully balanced by the bright acidity.
What I also loved about this wine is that it was made from a blend of three local Portuguese grapes – Antão Vaz, Arinto and Roupiero – varieties well able to retain their crisp acidity during the long hot summers in Southern Portugal. Arinto has a delightful lemony citrus flavor and is known to add finesse as well as age worthiness to the wine. Antão Vaz gives less on the aroma or flavor side but plays a role in the weight and body of the wine, while Roupiero lends aroma. In short, a great local team working in harmony.
Delighted with my find I decided to find out more. As well as the Reserva White there is a Reserva Red. This is made predominantly from local varieties (Aragonês, Trincadeiro and Alicante Bouschet) with a little Cabernet Sauvignon included as well. I tasted the 2007, which was brimming with bright mixed berry fruit, and the oak was well integrated adding layers of spice, creamy vanilla and milk chocolate. Smooth tannins give ample structure but are a far cry from the chewy dry dusty tannins of yore.
The 2009 Esporão Reserva White retails for about $20 and the 2007 Esporão Reserva Red for about $24.
As well as the Reserva line, Esporão makes a host of everyday value wines, reds, whites and rosés that from what I can see sell for about $9 to $12 and are widely available in the US.
Another interesting side to this post is that Faith, our managing editor actually visited the winery last summer, loved the wines and had a wonderful experience – a fact that I had totally forgotten until I mentioned I was going to post about Esporão. More postings on Portuguese wines is on the horizon, now that my appetite has been whetted.
So how many of our readers out there have already discovered these wines. Would love to hear your views.
Until next week.
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
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(Images: Mary Gorman and Faith Durand)