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Portugal's Alentejo
Part 5: Esporão

Herdade do Esporão, Apartado 31, 7200-999 Reguengos de Monsaraz, Portugal
Tel. 351 266 509270  Fax: 351 266 503586
E-mail: herdade@esporao.com Website: www.esporao.com
UK agent: John E. Fells (info@fells.co.uk)

The tower at Esporao - you might recognize this from the labels


Esporão is a huge estate in the Alentejo, with 600 hectares of vines and two wineries, one for reds and one for whites. 9000 tons of grapes are crushed here each vintage—that’s a lot. You get a sense of the scale of the place as you approach the winery, through what seem like endless vineyards. Since the first wine was released under this label, in 1989, Esporão has been a great ambassador for the wines of Alentejo, with a high profile on export markets.

Unsurprisingly for a winery headed up by Aussie winemaker David Baverstock (right), Esporão’s wines are made in a style that is new world rather than old. The wines are mostly labelled by variety, and they display forward fruit as their dominant feature, in many cases accompanied by a helping of new American oak. These are very astute, consistent commercial wines, made in large quantities, and there’s nothing at all wrong with the likes of Monte Velho which is cheap, reliable and can be found everywhere.

The winery is modern, with lots of stainless steel (some of the outdoor tanks are huge), and techniques such as microoxygenation are employed, particularly with some of the cheaper reds: this builds structure and gets rid of some of the greenness associated with less than perfectly ripe grapes, particularly when used in conjunction with oak dust during the primary ferment. .

Monte Velho Branco 2004
The Monte Velho white and red are 600 000 litre blends. This white shows bright lemony fruit. Crisp and fresh, this is a really nice ‘drinking’ wine. Very good+ 87/100

Vinha da Defesa Branco 2004
Very assertive limey nose. Crisp, herby palate is concentrated and rich. 6 g/l residual sugar gives a nice full texture. Very good+ 88/100

Esporão Verdelho 2004
This is the first attempt with this variety, planted here five years ago. Clean fresh fruity nose. The palate is quite rich and fruity with a melony richness, some honeyed notes and nice fresh acidity. An interesting wine. Very good+ 89/100

Esporão Branco Reserva 2004
Lovely and crisp with a lemony edge to the palate, which shows toasty oak richness. Richly textured and accessible. Very good/excellent 90/100

Monte Velho Tinto 2004
Made with oak chips and microoxygenation in big tanks. American oak dust in the ferment helps get rid of green notes. The nose shows ripe berry fruit with nice freshness an a herbal edge. The palate is fresh and fruity with nice structure. Very appealing – like the white, this is a delicious ‘drinking’ wine. Very good+ 88/100

Vinha da Defesa Tinto 2003
A rather difficult vintage – phenolic development was shut down by the heat. Really nice ripe, juicy soft red with good fruit and some structue. Very good+ 87/100

Esporão Aragonês 2002
Dark spicy nose is quite perfumed with a savoury edge: French oak gives finesse on the nose. The palate is chunky and spicy with good structure. Quite tannic and savoury. A food wine. Very good+ 89/100

Esporão Touriga Nacional 2002
Dark coloured. Spicy blueberry/blackberry nose with a tarry lift. Quite perfumed. The palate is chewy, spicy and structured with good acidity and nice intense black fruits. Savoury and structured. Very good+ 89/100

Esporão Reserva Tinto 2002
Slightly shy savoury red fruits nose with a spicy tarry edge. The palate shows a nice blend of red berry fruits with more of that spicy/tarry quality. Finishes savoury, chewy and firm. Very good+ 88/100

Esporão Garrafeira 2001
Quite a classy savoury dark fruits nose with some spicy complexity. The palate is concentrated and dense with lots of structure underlying the intense red and black fruits. Very tight wound with lots of tannins: a huge effort with lots of potential for development. Very good/excellent 92/100

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