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When you went to read this story, did you think it was going to be about port? Don’t get me wrong, well-made port is delicious. However, Portugal has so much more to offer as a wine growing country; we need to stop pigeonholing them and instead literally drink in the bounty.
The Esporão wines are as fine a place to begin an exploration into dry Portuguese wines as any. Their large portfolio of wines is produced exclusively from fruit sourced in their own vineyards. Under their umbrella is both Herdade do Esporão & Quinta dos Murcas. Herdade do Esporão sits in the Alentejo region — between grapevines and olive trees they boast over 3,700 planted acres. Quinta dos Murcas sits much further north in the Douro. Here’s a look at a quartet of current releases.
Esporão 2014 Monte Velho White ($10)
This wine is a blend of Antão Vaz, Roupeiro, and Perrum. It was fermented in stainless steel and filtered prior to bottling. White flower and citrus aromas waft from the nose. Lemon zest and honeydew melon flavors populate the generous palate. Minerals, grapefruit, white pepper, hints of cream, and a touch of salinity are all part of the crisp, clean finish. Whether you’re looking for something to sip on your deck or pair with the light foods of summer, Monte Velho White will fit the bill.
Esporão 2014 Monte Velho Red ($10)
Aragonés, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, and Syrah are blended together to create this offering. After fermentation in stainless steel it was aged over 6 months in a combination of tanks and American oak. Plum, violet and blackberry aromas come together on the inviting nose here. The palate is studded with oodles of fresh, black and purple fruit flavors. Bits of spice offer a nice counterpoint. Black tea, savory herbs, and continued fruit flavors are all part of the sumptuous finish. This wine is remarkably fresh and eager to please. It’s well suited to pair with almost any sort of food you want to throw at it. Don’t be afraid to serve Monte Velho Red with a hint of a chill on it.
Esporão 2013 Private Selection White ($25)
This offering is composed entirely of sémillon from vines planted in 1996. The fruit was manually harvested. Fermentation took place in large, new French oak barrels, aging for 6 months followed. Golden Delicious apple aromas underlie more prominent peach and apricot characteristics on the nose. Pear and apple flavors fill the palate alongside toast, vanilla, and a cornucopia of other spices. Bits of orange peel and crème fraiche emerge on the finish which is refined, layered, and complex. Firm acid keeps things in check.
Esporão 2009 Quinta dos Murcas Reserva ($40)
This wine represents a classic Portuguese Field Blend from old vines. The varieties contained include Tinta Roriz Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, and Souzão. After being hand harvested, the fruit was destemmed and crushed. Fermentation took place in granite lagares. It was aged over 12 months in a combination of French and American oak. Blackberry plum, leather, violets, and an underlying bit of toast fill the booming nose of this Old Vine Reserva. The palate is strewn with an abundance of red and black fruit flavors intermingling with each other to form a delicious core. Hints of dusty cocoa emerge and carry through the long, somewhat prodigious finish with is velvety in nature and shows off crushed black cherries, earth, chicory, black pepper, and more. Firm tannins which yield with a bit of air join racy acid to provide excellent structure. You could lay this wine down for the next 6 to 8 years with fine results. I’d lean towards popping it open now and pairing it with delicious, hearty foods for a memorable experience.
Table wines from Portugal can offer terrific value. As a category they’re not as well understood and appreciated by American consumers as they could be. As people we tend to like what’s well-known, thus the never ending popularity of cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Don’t get me wrong, I love good cabernet and chardonnay, but I’d be bored senseless if they were the only things I drank. The wines above from the Esporão portfolio are all outstanding values. If you’re looking for everyday house wines, either red or white, the two Monte Velho’s would be great additions to your cellar. Don’t let the prices fools you, these are terrific wines.