Quinta do Monte D'Oiro Lybra Syrah 2013
Pair with Chateaubriand, chorizo empanadas, or lasagna bolognese.
Quinta do Monte d’Oiro (“Hill of Gold”) was founded by winemaker José Bento dos Santo in 1990. His goal was to develop top-quality wines in a European style while respecting his vineyard’s unique terroir. The wines, which are deep, mineral and personalized, carry the Quinta’s identity, and their unique robust character is a harmonious match with classical and haute cuisines. Over the past 20 years, Quinta do Monte d’Oiro has achieved international renown, with wines chosen for the Portuguese president’s cellar at the Palácio de Belém, and available at some of the best European and American restaurants, such as the Alain Ducasse Group and the Four Seasons Hotel. Additionally, Monte d’Oiro’s Homenagem a António Carqueijeriro 1999, a wine produced as an homage to a great friend of Bento dos Santos, won an Iberian blind-tasting contest of the best 30 wines from Portugal and Spain. This same wine was part of Madrid’s ”Mythical Wines of the World“ tasting in 2003 and 2004, along with the legendary wines Petrus, Cheval Blanc, Beaucastel, Grange, Vega Sicilia, and Pingus. Quinta do Monte d’Oiro is located in Estremadura, Alenquer, 30 miles north of Lisbon. The area has been praised in various documents dating as far back as the 17th century as a privileged terroir that produces great wines.
The 105-acre vineyard is dedicated to the red grapes Syrah, Cinsaut, Petit Verdot, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz; Viognier is its only white grape. The climate is Mediterranean with Atlantic influence, and the soil composition is clay-limestone. Strict guidelines and procedures are followed during the production process, which is assisted by Grégory Viennois (Maison M. Chapoutier’s head winemaker). The vineyard is manicured to achieve production in small quantities with very low yields (about 1.5 to 2.6 tons per acre), and grapes are carefully handpicked into 33-pound boxes. Fermentation is rigorously run in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats; long maceration is employed and extended aging occurs in the best new French oak barrels such as Seguin Moreau, Radoux and Taransaud.
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.
Marked by an unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah accounts for a good deal of some of the most intense, powerful and age-worthy reds in the world. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah still achieves some of its maximum potential here, especially from Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.
Syrah also plays an important component in the canonical Southern Rhône blends based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, adding color, depth, complexity and structure to the mix. Today these blends have become well-appreciated from key appellations of the New World, namely Australia, California and increasingly, with praise, from Washington.
In the Glass
Syrah typically shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper and even bacon, smoke or black olive. In Australia, where it goes under the name Shiraz, it produces deep, dark, intense and often, jammy reds. While Northern Rhône examples are typically less fruity and more earthy, California appears increasingly capable of either style.
Flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb, grilled meats, spareribs and hard, aged cheeses are perfect with Syrah. Blue cheeses are perfect with a dense and fruit-driven Australian Shiraz.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” winemakers throughout the world have adopted this synonym for Syrah when they have produced a plush and fruit forward wine made in the Australian style. As an aside, Australians are also fond of tempering their fruit-forward Shiraz by blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds depth and structure.