This Week’s Wine Tasting
Portugal and Spain
Herdade do Esporao
“Herdade do Esporão, like the Alentejo, reveals itself slowly. Located little more than 180 kilometres from Lisbon, in the depths of the Alentejo, in Reguengos de Monsaraz, the landscape lazily unfolds among the gentle slopes that host the vineyards, corn fields, olive groves and holm and cork oaks interspersed with hill-top farms and whitewashed villages. Successively inhabited by local peoples, Romans, Visigoths and Muslims since pre-history, Reguengos de Monsaraz has been Portuguese since the reconquista in 1232 and famous since then for the quality of its wine and olive oil.”
“If the vineyards represent the lungs of Herdade do Esporão, then the winery is the heart that beats to the pace of the grape harvest and the sequence of tasks defined by the year’s schedule and the winemaking team. We built our first winery in 1985 and it was designed to function almost exclusively with the help of gravity. It was soon considered to be one of the most advanced and sophisticated in Portugal, complemented by tunnels and underground cellars that allowed us to control temperature and humidity naturally. We decided to build a second separate winery in 2002, which allowed us separate vinifications, keeping the first winery for red wine and the new one for whites. The lagares (traditional presses) winery, which was built in 1999, is for our most exclusive wines and where no detail that determines the quality of great wines is overlooked.”
The Wine Advocate says of Herdade do Esporao: “As a group, these are well priced, but the entry-level whites here ($7.00-$13.00) are lovely bargains. Admittedly, I am seeing them not long after bottling when it is easy to swoon over their amazing freshness and exuberance. That said, it is hard to find things to admire in this price range, but this winery provides many choices. There is a lot of good summer drinking here. The white Reserva is a pretty nice value, too, although the price jumps a bit. You can argue a long time over what you like best, but chill ‘em down, and knock ‘em back. These are wines to drink, not obsess over. The best of them will make both geeks and novices happy.”
Herdade do Esporao Alandra Branco 2013
Alentejo, Portugal. “Excellent year for white wines in this region. Cooler than average spring and summer temperatures resulted in wines with intensity, freshness and balance. Soil Type: Granite/schist rock with clay/loam soil. Average age of vines: 16 years. A blend of Antão Vaz, Perrum, and Arinto. Destemming, must chilling, pneumatic pressing, cold settling, fermentation temperature control with selected yeast inoculation in stainless steel tanks, centrifuging, fining, cold stabilisation and filtration. Crystal clear, citric colour. Floral, fruit. Youthful palate, clean, fresh, well balanced.”
Jen’s note- Tropical/pineapple, fresh nose with hints of white flowers. Juicy, crisp entry, lean palate but flavorful, approachable and easy.
85 Wine Advocate– “The 2013 Branco Alandra is the winery’s vin de pays, not an appellation wine. That said, at its dirt cheap price, it is often a great deal for drinking in the summer of its release, easily outperforming its price and status – if and only if encountered young and fresh, as it doesn’t last long at peak. Un-oaked and coming in at 12.5% alcohol, the wine is a blend of 40% each of Antao Vaz and Arinto, with 20% Perrum. Despite its entry-level status, it is sourced from vines with an average age of 17 years. This is the type of summer white that you can chill, you don’t have to wait for it to come around and you can just knock it back. The fruit is tasty and it has a fresh, invigorating feel that should make it a big hit at picnics, especially given its hard-to-believe price. These days, you don’t find much even worth drinking at that price level.”
Herdade do Esporao Monte Velho Branco 2012
Alentejo, Portugal. “Excellent year for white wines in this region. Cooler than average spring and summer temperatures resulted in wines with intensity, freshness and balance. Soil Type: Granite and schist based with clay loam soil. Average age of vines: 15 years. A blend of Antão Vaz, Roupeiro, and Perrum. Destemmed, must chilled, membrane pressed, cold settled, fermented in stainless steel tanks with temperature control, centrifuged off gross lees, fining, cold stabilized and early bottling. Crystal clear, pale straw colour. Fruity aroma with white stone fruit and fresh citric notes. Firm, intense, textured and fruity, well balanced with a long finish.”
Jen’s note- Leesy, lanolin aroma with peach and nectarine, tropical undertones. Some acid and floral notes on the palate. Textured. Good value.
85 Wine Advocate– “The 2012 Branco Monte Velho is 40% each of Antao Vaz and Roupeiro and 20% Perrum. Although this is an entry-level type of wine, it comes from respectable vine age (15 years) for its level and the region. Dry but fruity, it is a tank-aged white that is fresh, delicious and fun – and meant for early consumption. The younger you drink it, the better as it will be at its best now and over the next year or so, however long it theoretically lasts. Drink now-2016.”
Herdade do Esporao Alandra Tinto 2012
Alentejo, Portugal. “Entry point wine with a fresh and fruity profile, obtained from blending a wide range of wines to guarantee a consistent quality. Soil Type: Granite/schist rock with clay/loam soil. Average age of vines: 10 years. A blend of Moreto, Castelão, and Trincadeira. Destemming, crushing, fermentation temperature control in stainless steel tanks, pneumatic pressing, malolactic fermentation, four months in stainless steel tanks. Bright condition, ruby colour. Youthful fruit aromatics with light floral notes.”
Jen’s note- Dark fruits with some earthy notes, spices and briary fruits. Dry/spicy entry. Juicy acid with dark fruit flavors. Food friendly.
Herdade do Esporao Monte Velho Tinto 2012
Alentejo, Portugal. “A wine for all occasions. The profile is balanced and gastronomic, highlighting the best aromas and flavours of Alentejo grapes. Excellent year for red wines in this region. The low winter rainfall contributed to a smaller than average grape harvest with deeply concentrated, high quality wines. Soil Type: Granite/schist base, clay/loam soil. Average age of vines: 15 years. A blend of Aragonês, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, and Syrah. Destemming, crushing, fermentation in stainless steel tanks with temperature control, membrane pressing, controlled malolactic fermentation, ageing in stainless steel tanks and American oak barrels for 6 months prior to blending and bottling. Clear deep ruby colour. Berry fruit aromas with some complex subtle toasty notes. Elegant palate with good depth of fruit and a fine tannic structure.”
Jen’s note- Opaque purple, pretty color. Blueberry/briary fruits. Some earth and sulfur hints that blows off as wine opens. Spice and floral qualities on palate. Great value. Easy and fresh.
85 Wine Advocate– “The 2012 Monte Velho red is a blend of 40% Aragonez, 35% Trincadeira, 20% Touriga Nacional, and 5% Syrah, tank fermented and then aged in a mixture of tank and American oak for six months. It comes in at 14% alcohol. It was sourced from vines averaging 15 years of age. In its youth, when things are sometimes jumbled, it has some earthy notes, hints of herbs and touches of smoke, but this is a pretty consistent value that looks quite good this year. Young, fresh fruit is underneath. It has fine solidity in the mid-palate for its level. Its modest structure and drink-me-now demeanor are appropriate to its goals. It became quite tasty and more interesting as it aired out, too.”
Las Colinas del Ebro
“Bodegas Abanico began in the autumn of 2006 when Rafael de Haan and Nuria Altes decided to make their own wine in Celler Batea, Terra Alta. They thought they could create something special from the old vine Garnacha and Syrah in Terra Alta. The resulting wine Las Colinas del Ebro which has since developed into a successful brand in its own right. They realized that they could improve on what was currently being produced by wineries in terms of wine quality and packaging, and create a unique product.
Since 2006 Rafael and Nuria have developed numerous brands from all over Spain and continue to search out great wines, regions and projects to add to their range. Today, they are confident that every wine justifies its place in their portfolio and represents true quality, regional authenticity, varietal character, as well as great value.”
“Terra Alta, or High Land, is the largest Denominación de Origen in Catalonia, and is a region that is just beginning to realise its massive winemaking potential. Close to Priorat, the area boasts similarly ancient vines of Garnacha Blanca, Garnacha Negre, Cariñena, with a small pockets of imported varieties, such as Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The land itself is characterised by extreme seasons, accentuated by its altitude of 400-600 metres above sea level. The winters are cold and dry, with temperatures picking up around May and remaining consistently hot by day until late September. Nights are always refreshingly cool, allowing for longer maturation of grapes. Rainfall is scarce, with an average of 400-500mm per year, and most vineyards remain unirrigated.”
Las Colinas del Ebro Garnacha Blanca 2012
Terra Alta, Spain. “100% Garnacha Blanca. Fruit was sourced from vines between 20 and 40+ years old and was hand harvested, destemmed and lightly crushed prior to pressing. The must was cold-settled and a portion of must that had been macerated with the skins for 12 hours was added prior to fermentation for additional complexity. Fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Medium straw-colored, it exhibits an attractive perfume of mineral, spring flowers, white peach, and melon that jumps from the glass. On the palate it is exceptionally concentrated, mouth-filling, and vibrant with plenty of spicy fruit, good depth, and a fruit-filled finish.”
Jen’s note- Deep aromas- pear, stone fruit, lanolin and herbs. Soft, sweet apple entry. Gentle and textured with easy acid and some melon flavors. Good.
88 Wine Spectator– “Subtle and well-balanced, with delicate acidity framing hints of creamed apple, fleur de sel, acacia blossom and lemon curd. Drink now through 2015.”
Las Colinas del Ebro Syrah/Garnacha 2012
Terra Alta, Spain. “20% Syrah and 80% Garnacha. In 2012 the challenge was balancing sugar accumulation and phenolic ripeness. Strict site selection for the lots blended into the final wine allowed for optimal balance between acidity, alcoholic strength and phenolic ripeness. Made from 25 year-old Syrah and 35 year-old Garnacha. Each variety was hand harvested, fermented and aged separately and then saw a short time in French oak barrels [2 months] to add complexity prior to blending. The wine is made entirely from first press free run juice which gives an intense fruit aroma and sweet tannin structure. The wine is notable for its purity, length and balanc.”
Jen’s note- Pretty garnet/ruby color. Not opaque but deep center. Great aroma- blueberry, raspberry, briary fruits, spice, lanolin. Berry pie. Juicy, textured entry. Very good. Serious style, approachable, gripping.