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The Cellar: Great Buys from Spain + Portugal

Saturday, May 12, 2012


The sun-warmed hillsides of Portugal and Spain yield delicious, inexpensive wines that are perfect for the season.

This week’s wine travels take us to the Iberian Peninsula where some of the best European wine values are found. This is one of those weeks where a lot of you are going to have to step outside of your comfort zone as we sample a Spanish Vuira and a Portuguese red blend made from Touriga Nacional. If you have a thirst for more and would like to expand your knowledge about wine in a fun and relaxing atmosphere, you should consider attending one of my ‘Evening with Wine’ events. The next such event, featuring Rosés and the classic varietal Syrah, is scheduled for Thursday May 24th, 2012. For more information visit www.ProvidenceWineAcademy.com.

On a side note, if you enjoy Whisky I would urge you to sign up for an event that is taking place on Thursday May 17th, 2012, when Chris Riesbeck from famed Independent Whisky Bottler Gordon and MacPhail will be visiting the Providence Wine Academy for an ‘Evening with Whisky’. Join us as we sample a stunning array of Single Malts from Benromach, Highland Park, Mortlach, Macallan and Glenrothes and enjoy a fine spread of meats, cheeses and fresh bread supplied by our friends at Flan Y Ajo.

2010 Lágrimas de Maria, Viura, Rioja, Spain

The Bodegas Patrocinio cooperative is located in Rioja’s northwestern Alta sub-region. It was founded in 1986 when 170 independent wine farmers started pooling their resources. Today, the cooperative’s combined acreage exceeds 1,200 with more than 2 million gallons of wine being bottled annually. The most widely planted white grape varietal in this region is called Viura. Known as Macabeo in other parts of Spain, this varietal plays an especially important role in this area’s white table wines, as well as in the traditional Spanish sparkling wine called Cava produced further to the east.

Viura is an aromatic grape varietal with mild fruit flavors. It often displays great acidity, especially when unoaked. While ‘Lágrimas de Maria’ translates into ‘Maria’s tears’, their 2010 Viura leaves me with very little to cry about. This $10 gem is absolutely worth every penny and a great example of what a Vuira brings to the table (should you never have tasted one). It is light and refreshing displaying citrus fruits and minerality, alongside a nice dose of acidity. This is a great food wine – think lightly prepared fish.

2009 Herdade do Esporão, Defesa, Touriga Nacional - Syrah, Alentejo, Portugal

I am a huge fan of the Portuguese producer behind this week’s next wine. I recently reviewed one of their Reserve Whites and today I am going to be taking a closer look at one of their reds. Herdade do Esporão, which can trace its history back to 1267, likes to blend indigenous varietals with international ones. In the 2009 Defesa, winemakers blended one of Portugal’s most famous red varietals, Touriga Nacional, with Syrah and then aged the blend in oak for 6 months. Before releasing the wine they held on to bottles for an additional 6 months, allowing all the flavors to come together.

I would recommend the $15 Defesa Red to anyone who likes big red wines and is interested in trying something new. The rich flavors of ripe warm-climate Syrah and oak stand out, making it a wine that I think speaks to a lot of American palates. There is a nice density as well as concentration of dark fruit in this wine, which makes it able to stand up to most meats off the grill. Also, look for the other wines in the Defesa series including the white made from Antão Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro or their Rosé in which they blend Syrah with Aragonês. Interesting stuff and great values.


Steffen Rasch CSW is ready to answer any wine-related questions, comments or concerns you may have. Feel free to email him at [email protected]. Sign up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.


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