This Week’s Wine Tasting
Portugal and Spain
Esporao– “The Alentejo’s 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.
Herdade do Esporão is located little more than 170 kilometres southeast of Lisbon, nearby the historical city of Reguengos de Monsaraz, in Alentejo.
The Herdade do Esporão benefits from the Mediterranean-continental climate, with its intense sun exposure, reaching an average of 300 days per year. The climate is also characterised by notoriously warm summers and short and rainy winters, with significant diurnal thermic amplitudes.
Portugal is privileged to have the second largest number of native grape varieties, which exist nowhere else in the world and which make Portuguese wines so unique and original.
Although the exact number of varieties in Portugal is not certain, it is thought to range between 250 and 280. At Herdade do Esporão, we currently have 194 different varieties planted, of which 37 account for virtually all production. These 37 fundamental varieties are those best adapted to the Alentejo, the majority having been in the region for many years. We have been pioneers in introducing certain varieties, which have become real calling cards of Alentejo winemaking, grapes such as Touriga Nacional and Verdelho, which have given identity and quality to Alentejo wines. Approaching forty years old, some of these vines are of an age that they can be classified as old vines.”
Herdade do Esporao Verdelho 2013
Alentejo, Portugal. 100% Verdelho. “The 2013 viticultural year was characterized by a cool and wet spring followed by a dry summer with large diurnal temperatures, making for good maturation conditions and sound healthy grapes. Soil Type: Granite/schist base with clay/loam soil. Average age of vines: 10 years. Cold storage, bunch sorting, whole bunch pressing, cold settling, temperature controlled fermentation, centrifuging, cold stabilization and filtration. Color: Crystal clear, citric colour with green tinges. Aromas: Vibrant aromatics with tropical notes of lime and grapefruit. Palate: Fresh, elegant palate, good minerality, long and persistent finish.” $10.99
Herdade do Esporao Reserve White 2013
Alentejo, Portugal. A blend of Antão Vaz, Arinto, Roupeiro, and Semillon. “The 2013 viticultural year was characterized by a cool and wet spring followed by a dry summer with large diurnal temperatures, making for good maturation conditions and sound healthy grapes. Soil Type: Granite and schist origin with clay loam soil. Average age of vines: 18 years. Destemming, must chilling, skin contact, membrane pressing, 24 hour cold settling, temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks and in new French and American oak barrels, 6 month ageing on fine lees. Color: Clear, straw with green tinges. Aromas: Rich, intense, notes of peach and grapefruit, well integrated toasty notes. Palate: Creamy and complex, well balanced, deeply fruity with minerality and a fresh and persistent finish.” $17.99
Herdade do Esporao Reserve Red 2011
Alentejo, Portugal. A blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês [Grenache], Cabernet Sauvignon, Trincadeira and others. “The low winter rainfall contributed to a smaller than average grape harvest with deeply concentrated high quality wines. Soil Type: Clay loam soils with granite and schist mother rock. Average age of vines: 15 years. Each variety hand picked and vinified separately, fermented in open tanks with robotic plunging and temperature control (22-25ºC), membrane pressed, malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Matured for 12 months in 70% American oak and 30% French oak barrels. Following bottling, the wine was aged for at least 8 months before market release. Color: Dense deep red. Aromas: Complex spicy aroma of dark berry fruits, with notes of toasty vanillan. Palate: Firm and well structured with dense fruit. Fruit is still youthful, with supporting tannins that will provide ageing potential.” $23.99
Canary Islands, Spain– “The Canary Island chain, off the north coast of Africa (Morocco) has a diverse group of microclimates. The soils here are entirely volcanic which lends itself to their unique minerality as well as naturally creating low yields due to the high drainage of porous soils. The minerality is not flinty, nor citrusy or chalky. It’s sometimes smoky, a bit saline, and other times it’s like drinking liquid stones. In addition, due to its geographical isolation, varietals that are obsolete on mainland Spain are still being planted as they have remained unexposed to Phylloxera and are mostly still planted on Vinifera rootstocks.”
Fronton de Oro– “In 1977, D. Antonio Ramírez bought a small piece of land in the hills of La Lechuza (a small town on the island of Gran Canaria) known locally as “El Frontón”. There he planted some vegetables and vines for the family’s needs. In 1999 his two sons, Pedro and Antonio, decided to bottle some wine to sell locally. The vineyards are high-elevation – many above 1,000 meters – and in many cases on terraced slopes.”
Fronton de Oro Tinto 2012
Canary Islands, Spain. “A blend of Tintilla [Grenache] and Listán Negro raised for three months in used barrels.” Jen’s note- Clear, brick color like Pinot Noir. Very pretty nose, strawberry and aromatic berry fruit. Rustic entry with mountain fruit (reminds me of [the Swiss grape] Cornalin). Very good. Fresh. $18.99
Alicante, Spain– “These days you can find a great variety of wines on Alicantine territory; from a fruity white Riesling of Alsace inspiration to an oak-matured Cabernet, not to mention one of the best Moscatels in Spain and an original red called Fondillon made from sun-dried Monastrell grapes. They remain to be highly coveted among experts.”
Primitivo Quiles– “Senor Don Primitivo Quiles is one of the great figures of Spanish wine. His bodega in Monovar is the oldest in Alicante (since 1780), and probably in all the comunidad Valenciana. They have been a family-owned winery for over 100 years and maintain of the oldest Soleras on the market, dating back to 1892. It is a highly valued treasure in wine cellars all over Europe and a jewel of a wine that is a source of pride for the wine-making industry in Alicante.
The Fondillon is 100% Monastrell harvested in late October or November then placed in a Solera system that began in 1948. While the Cono 4 is a joven style made in large cono foudres that is a great expression of the warm Alicante climate yet also very earthy and complex – this is one of the best deals in the book!”
Primitivo Quiles Cono 4 2012
Alicante, Spain. “Monastrell [Mourvedre] made in 80 year old Conofors (think dairy tanks but made of American Oak), this wine is filtered by gravity and, following tradition, is made in a slighty oxidative style which gives the wine its very unique character.” Jen’s note- Brick, cloudy color. Monastrell (Joven), smells like Ruby port- dried fruits and ripe, briary fruits. Slight oxidized quality. Very good value. Serious style. Dry finish. Good. $12.99
Vinho Verde– “A Portuguese wine that originated in the historic Minho province in the far north of the country. The modern-day ‘Vinho Verde’ region, originally designated in 1908, includes the old Minho province plus adjacent areas to the south. In 1976, the old province was dissolved.
Vinho Verde is not a grape variety. The name literally means “green wine,” but translates as “young wine”, as opposed to mature wine. It may be red, white or rosé, and it is meant to be consumed within a year of bottling. It may be red, white or rosé, and it is meant to be consumed within a year of bottling. In its early years of production, the slight effervesce of the wine came from malolactic fermentation taking place in the bottle. In winemaking this is usually considered a wine fault but Vinho Verde producers found that consumers liked the slightly sparkling nature. Today, most Vinho Verde producers no longer follow this practice and instead complete malolactic fermentation prior to bottling with the slight sparkle being added by artificial carbonation.
The white Vinho Verde is very fresh, due to its natural acidity, with fruity and floral aromas that depend on the grape variety. They are lemon- or straw-coloured, around 8.5 to 11% alcohol, and are made from local grape varieties Alvarinho, Batoca, Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, and Azal.”
Octave Vinho Verde 2014
Portugal. “This Vinho Verde is made with the Alvarinho grape. It is light, crisp, and acidic. Zesty, with a slight spritz to the lemon-lime flavors, which are accented by notes of fresh-cut herbs. Shows intense freshness on the finish. Serve with all your favorite hors d’oeuvres and anything from the sea.” $7.99