Portugal’s hot climate plays to good value, refreshing wines.
Alentejo is in the southern part of Portugal, one of the hottest places in Europe. The Herdade do Esporao estate has more than 1,200 acres of vineyards in the center of Alentejo, where it produces thirst-quenching white and rosé wines at remarkably fair prices.
Founded in 1267, Herdade do Esporao’s boundaries remain nearly intact and contain architectural and archaeological artifacts, including the fully restored medieval Esporao Tower.
In 1973, Jose Roquette acquired Herdade do Esporao and began marketing its wine in 1985 under the Finagra label. Roquette’s youngest child, Joao, joined the company in 2005 after informally advising his father and the board of directors on business matters. Two years later, at 33, Roquette became the CEO of the company.
Roquette earned an MBA and worked for Merrill Lynch in London and Madrid, but it was his talent as a jazz musician and love of the music that brought him toDizzy’s Club, Lincoln Center’s jazz venue for a wine presentation. He hit three high notes with Esporao’s 2012 Verdelho, 2012 Vinha da Defesa rose’, and the 2009 Quinta dos Murcas Reserva.
Verdelho is a white grape grown throughout Portugal, but best known for its use in Madeira wine, where its natural high acidity can give Madeira a life measured in centuries. That acidity was present in the 2012 Herdade do Esporao Verdelhowith its tangy lime aroma and flavor, underscored with a riff of thyme. Its clean, dry, mineral finish was as clear as a clarinet.
Roquette introduced the 2012 Vinha da Defesa Rosé as a “warm climate rosé,” by which he meant the sun’s warmth was still in the mouthful of cherries that filled every sip. The voluptuous ripe fruit was the wine version of the lush tones of Duke Ellington. And the bottle captured the Big Band period with its Art Deco-like lettering and design.
North of Alentejo is Portugal’s Douro Valley, the home of the world-renowned sweet port wine. Under the blazing sun, grapes are grown on steep hills for port wine and the less known yet equally delicious, dry, red wines made from the same varietals.
In 2008, Roquette purchased Quinta dos Murcas, a port wine estate. From it comes the dry red table wine, the 2009 Quinta dos Murcas Reserva which you’ll want to have with grilled meats.
It’s made from a blend of six indigenous red grapes that captures the wonderful blackberry and spicy raisin cake scent of port. The black fruit flavor is just as pleasing, and the soft tannins and mellow acidity bring harmony to the 2009 Quinta dos Murcas Reserva.
At your next summer party, put the Herdade do Esporao and Quinta dos Murcas wines on the table. And in the background play two different performers of the same style music, such as Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck from the Cool Jazz period, or different styles from the same instrument, such as saxophonist Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins. I’m sure Roquette would enjoy being at the table, too.
Retail prices are about $12 for the 2012 Verdelho and 2012 Vinha da Defesa Rosé and $39 for the 2009 Quinta dos Murcas Reserva.
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