There's a reason why Portugal keeps popping up in conversations with fellow wine geeks - they make fabulous vino! Portugal may share the Iberian Peninsula with Spain but the country has its own rich legacy of winemaking. In fact, Portugal's famed Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world and is recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Celebrated for their fortified Port wine, Portugual also produces a wide variety of white and red wines from indigenous and international grapes.
I've yet to visit Portugal but I took my palate on a Portuguese wine adventure with José Luis Moreira da Silva, resident winemaker of Quinta dos Murças in the Douro Valley. Quinta dos Murças is owned by Esporão; founded in 1973, they are a leading family-owned producer of wines and olive oils in Portugal. Their flagship estate, Herdade do Esporão, is located about 100 miles southeast of Lisbon in Alentejo.
image courtesy of Esporão
A native of Porto, José Luis joined Esporão in 2015 and as the resident winemaker at Quinta dos Murças he believes that "the vineyard should speak to you in some way." In his opinion, "less intervention leads to more balanced wines" and his philosophy is to "interfere as little as possible with the process and uncover the real identity of each vineyard to obtain the truest expression of the terroir." Quinta dos Murças provides many opportunities for authentic expression - it has 8 unique terroirs influenced by factors such as mountains, altitude, climate, and soil.
Assobio White 2015 ($13)
Grapes for this fresh, light, and fruity blend of Viosinho, Rabigato, Verdelho, Gouveio, and Arinto are sourced from the Assobio vineyard - the highest and steepest hillside at Quinta dos Murças. Perky acidity and minerality add texture to its flavors of lime, passionfruit, and honeydew. The name Assobio refers to the whistling sound made by the wind as it travels through the hilltop vineyards.
Esporão Reserva White 2015 ($20)
A blend of Arinto, Roupeiro, and Antão Vaz, Esporão Reserva White is from Portugal's southern Alentejo region. The terroir's combination of intense heat with cool Atlantic breezes produces grapes with robust flavors and refreshing acidity. If you're looking for a delicious alternative to Chardonnay, this exuberant white wine is a great choice. It has flavors of ripe stone fruits and orange that are balanced by a subtly creamy texture and a touch of minerality on the finish.
Assobio Red 2015 ($13)
This robust red wine blends together three of Portugal's signature grapes -- Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Franca. Dry but juicy with flavors of ripe strawberries and hints of black pepper and mint. An impressive red at a great price!
Quinta dos Murças Minas 2015 ($25)
Cool water springs near the vines for Minas help the grapes (Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Cão) maintain ideal levels of acidity and freshness. This is a well-balanced vino with flavors of ripe red fruits, a touch of balsamic, and a hint of slate. Firm but luscious, it has a long and fresh finish.
Quinta dos Murças Margem 2015 ($65)
A big and balanced blend of Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, Margem (margin) is named for the vineyards' location on the edge of the Douro River. The vines have an average age of 33 years - making these parcels some of the oldest on the estate. Margem is a big wine that balances its power with impressive grace and freshness. Concentrated flavors of rich blackberries and black currant are imbued with a touch of levity thanks to vibrant acidity and sultry hints of spice and balsamic. Fermented with natural yeasts, Margem is a holistic expression of the terroir.
Prior to my tasting with José Luis, I was familiar with just a few Portuguese wine grapes. I am still struggling to pronounce some of the names but the beauty of the wines does not get lost in linguistics. Concentration of fruit, balanced by freshness is the link that connects the wines in the Quinta dos Murças portfolio. If you're in a wine rut, try something new and start exploring the wines of Portugal with Esporão and Quinta dos Murças. And if your travels take you to Portugal, why not add a visit to Esporão?