|Esporao's expansive vineyards in Alentejo, Portugal.|
Antão Vaz leads the pack in terms of quantity and, I think, quality. This indigenous white variety does well in the hot and arid climate of Alentejo. It’s frequently blended with other indigenous Portuguese varieties like Arinto (for some crisp acidity), along with others like Gouveio,and Roupeiro.
When tasting these white wines, I find they just pop with the authenticity of the region. Winemakers craft Antão Vaz and other Alentejo white blends in a variety of styles, from steely, leaner ones, to skin-contact wines made in amphorae, to creamier, barrel-fermented wines. And I think that diversity is on display in the wines I tasted for this report, which I received as samples and tasted sighted.
There are a few red wines included in here, as well as a ringer from the Douro, made by Alentejo-based producer Esporão.
2016 Herdade da Malhadinha Nova Antão Vaz da Peceguina - Portugal, Alentejano, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Rich gold color. Fascinating aromas of orange peel and apricot along with olive oil, hay, nougat, saline and chalk. Medium-bodied, this has the textural depth of an orange wine while being really vibrant and precise. The orange and apricot fruit is touched with honeyed, waxy elements, minerals, sea salt, white tea, raw almond, there’s even some green herb and dried seaweed notes (in a really good way). Deep, the mouthfeel is lovely, but the wine is really, really fresh. A memorable and unique made from 100% Antão Vaz, fermented in stainless steel. (91 points)
2018 FitaPreta Branco - Portugal, Alentejano, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Light yellow color. The nose shows lemon curd, peaches, yellow apples, while rich notes of honey and lamp oil mix with lighter elements of sea salt and perfume. Fresh and medium-bodied (13% alcohol) with a plump feel and lively acidity. Lemon curd, honeydew melon and apricot mix nicely with raw almond, honeysuckle, and lots of flinty, chalky notes. A steely, bright style but lots of depth and complexity. This is a blend of Antão Vaz with Roupeiro and Arinto. (91 points)
2017 Herdade Do Rocim “Mariana” Branco - Portugal, Alentejano, Alentejo
Light yellow color. Aromas of lemon, cantaloupe, peach, with honey and magnolia petals. Medium-bodied on the palate, very fresh and bright, with peach nectar and lime. Salty, floral, dusty mineral accents, this also shows honey, almond, tropical flowers. The saline/mineral component hangs long on the crisp finish. Very versatile, summer-friendly, a brighter style that will go well with all sorts of foods. From the Vidigueira sub-zone, this is 60% Antão Vaz, 30% Arinto and 10% Alvarinho. 12.5% alcohol. Insane value. (89 points)
2017 Herdade do Esporão Monte Velho Branco - Portugal, Alentejano, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Light yellow color. The nose is bright and peachy with mangos and limes (nice contrast), along with spicy herbs, wildflowers and creamy, honeyed notes. Lovely texture on the palate yet the acidity is precise, and there’s a nice tropical/citrus mix (mango and pineapple drizzled with lime). Notes of honey, salted almond, smashed rocks, chalk and dried flowers add all sorts of complexity. This is absurdly good for the price, a dynamic and exciting white blend of 40% Antão Vaz, 40% Roupeiro and 20% Perrum, fermented in stainless steel. 14.5% alcohol. (90 points)
2017 Herdade do Esporão Esporão Reserva Branco - Portugal, Alentejano, Alentejo
Light yellow color. An interesting nose of peaches, apricot jam, glazed pear, with honeycomb, whipped butter and floral tones. Full-bodied and plump with medium acidity, and juicy apricot and glazed pear. Lots of rich notes of almond and honey comb but I also get some floral tones and an attractive salty-briny aspect. Big and delicious, but nuanced and food-friendly as well. Antao Vaz, Arinto, Roupeiro and others, aged six months in a mix of steel, and some new French and American oak. (88 points)
2017 Herdade do Esporão Colheita - Portugal, Alentejano, Alentejo
Deep purple color. Suave dark fruit on the nose (roasted fig, plum, black currant) with anise, coffee, violets and dark, rich earth. Full-bodied, quite a grip to the tannins but the edges are round and the acidity is lively. Juicy but tangy black fruit mixes nicely with coffee, pepper, anise, rosemary, clove. It’s accessible in it’s youth, but has the structure to improve for at least three to five years. Touriga Nacional, Cabernet, Aragonez and other varieties, co-fermented, foot treading, aging in concrete – this is another impressive example of the quality and value from Alentejo. (90 points)
2016 Herdade do Esporão Quinta dos Murças “Minas” - Portugal, Douro
Deep purple color. On the nose, there is a ton of earthy and spicy complexity, with anise, black pepper, charcoal, with a core of dark but tangy currant fruit. Medium to full-bodied with some serious grip to the tannins, but fresh acidity. Black currant and tart plum kinds of fruit, with a mix of spicy tones (anise, pepper, clove) with espresso, and underlying mineral, stony and graphite elements, lots of complexity. For a wine at this price point, this has serious concentration and could benefit from some cellar time. A schist soil blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and others, aged in concrete and old French oak for nine months. (90 points)