Esporao Rocks

Esporao Rocks

Posted on Jun, 04. 2012 by

Categories: Wine

Down to brass tacks right up front this morning: if you missed Wednesday’s special “Fifth Wednesday” event with Esporão, you missed some killer great wines—but plenty of you were able to come by and crowd up our tasting room up (yes, we need a 3rd air conditioner for days like that).

In either case, I’ve been a huge fan of this family of wines for as long as I’ve known that Portugal made good wine, so I was thrilled to be able to bring all this to your attention. Esporão was essentially my intro to the real story of modern winemaking in Portugal, and what that represents to me today is, well, Spain ten years ago. Wines of stunning purity and quality that are so obviously underpriced for their quality level (relative to similar wines in France and the US) that you just know that the international market is going to catch on sooner than later and double the cost of all these great deals. It happened with Spain…$15 Crianzas started getting 92+ Advocate scores, and that was really all she wrote. Now, so many impostors are making Spanish wines to score well with certain critics, the prices for real soulful wines are through the roof, and, well, here I am trying to get you in on one of the lower floors of the “next big thing”. Ignore at your own peril.

We tasted 10 wines on Wednesday. Great, world-class whites that you mightn’t peg as Iberian; full, expressive reds that defy their price tags in every respect. My favorites:

2011 Esporão Verdelho: This was one of my new favorites long before this tasting was even a discussion. Verdelho is not a different spelling of Verdejo; it’s its own grape…actually, one of the four main grapes of Madeira. This wine, though, brings almost none of the qualities of Madeira to the table, and instead rests triangulated between Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo and Pinot Gris. It’s tremendously fresh, clean wine, with white flowers and fruit pits flanked by a seriously satisfying plushness; a bright and springy acidity follows it up to leave your palate refreshed and demanding more. I bought this as soon as I tried it a month or so ago, and a few of you have have seen it on the shelves and even tried it. For those who haven’t, it’s a brilliant new addition to your summer white lineup!
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Retail Price: $14.99
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2009 Esporão Private Selection (White): A new one for me, and a real head-turner. I kept coming back to this wine, because it’s so uncharacteristic of Iberia. It reminded me of an Anton Bauer Gruner Veltliner that I had aged for 7 years or so, and turned out like classic Grand Cru white Burgundy. This, of course, is current vintage stuff, but it has a serious deep yellow hue; while it’s obviously not Chardonnay, it has that distinctively integrated oak character beset with lively fruit and a regal character that laughs off its meager price tag. The wine leaps out of the glass without ever being too obvious, and all the little pieces and parts come together so effortlessly that you just want to keep smelling it. If you like great white Burg, and/or high-end California chard, but are getting a bit tired of paying so much for ‘em, this is your new favorite substitute.
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Retail Price: $27.99
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2008 Quinta dos Murças Duoro Reserva: Of all the great reds we tasted, this one sticks out for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is a beautiful cellar wine, something that exists on a plane by itself somewhere amongst West Coast Zin, Northern Rhone Syrah and Cali Cab. I’m drinking a glass of it as I write this, on night #2 of being open, and it’s blossoming into something of a graceful juggernaut. The body and spicy fruit of Central Coast zinfandel; the steely bluish fruit of Cote Rotie; the rugged depth and classicity of old (original) Napa cabernet. But this is no imitation of any of those things; the elements all gel together to bring you a serious contender for “cellar anchor”. The structure is sufficient that you can expect it to get better for at least another 5 to 10 years, but not so taut that you can’t drink it now. If you love big red wine, you need to have this. [typical retail: $42.50; Grand Cru: $30.99; Premier Cru: $32.44]
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Retail Price: $42.50


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