Herdade Do Esporao Verdelho 2011
Of all the sub-regions in the Alentejo, Herdade Do Esporao chose Reguengos de Monsaraz because it was the one that guaranteed full-bodied but elegant wines that are rounded and seductive, due to the combination of poor, stony soles and a tough summer climate that brings hot days and cool nights, followed by a harsh winter. It is here, in the heart of Reguengos de Monsaraz, that Alentejo wines are most balanced, whilst powerful, appealing, lively and with good ageing potential. 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.
Best known for intense, impressive and age-worthy fortified wines, Portugal relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to its north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west and south coasts, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, due to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. A long and narrow but small country, Portugal claims considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast.
While Port (named after its city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast at the end of the Douro Valley), made Portugal famous, Portugal is also an excellent source of dry red and white wines of various styles.
The Duoro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red wines made from the same set of grape varieties used for Port, which include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, among a long list of others in minor proportions.
Other dry wines include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine, made in the north, and the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão as well as the bold, and fruit-driven reds and whites of the southern, Alentejo.
The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast.
A significant grape in Madeira but capable of making a delightful Portugese dry white as well, Verdelho wines have a bright acidity and lovely lemon, pineapple and apple fruit qualities. Verdelho is great as an aperitif wine and as a pairing with raw fish and oysters.
While many less expensive Madeira wines can be blends of different years or grapes, including Verdelho, single-varietal Madeira represent the highest quality versions that also have long aging capacities. Sercial, Boal, Malmsey and Verdelho are the best Madeira grapes. Of the four, Verdelho is the most concentrated and smoky. It is dry, intense, spicy and is flexible in food pairings. Try it with potato leek soup or lobster bisque.