Tag Archives: Touriga Nacional

Wallet-Friendly Red Wines for Fall

Looking for a new great value wine to try this fall? Try one of these three reds:

Esporao Monte Velho RedHerdade do Esporão Monte Velho Red 2012


Set a place at the dinner table for this medium bodied, food-friendly wine from the Alentejo region of Portugal. The wine is a blend of indigenous grapes Aragonês (40%) and Trincadeira (35%) along with Touriga Nacional (20%) and Syrah (5%). Vibrant berry aromas introduce flavors of cherry, raspberry, and cassis. The fruit is layered with white pepper, clove and subtle toasted oak. If you’re not familiar with the wines of Portugal, Esporão offers an excellent introduction.

$10, 14% alcohol by volume

Rib Shack RedRib Shack Red 2012

South Africa

With its smoky and earthy flavors, this wine from the Western Cape in South Africa is the perfect pairing for barbecues and tailgates. The wine from Douglas Green is 60% Pinotage and 40% Shiraz. Intense tobacco, leather and wood smoke aromas and flavors are supported nicely by black cherry, boysenberry and plum. Silky tannins give the wine a smooth mouthfeel, and the finish is satisfying with lingering dark berry and mocha.

$10, 13% alcohol by volume

Dead Bolt Winemaker's BlendDead Bolt Winemaker’s Red Blend 2011


Juicy and jammy, this wine can warm you up as the temperature drops. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah and Shiraz from California by Australian winemaker Philip Laffer. Black plum, baked cherries and sweet tannins make for a bold first impression. This is followed by a silky finish that has a touch of nutmeg. From the flashy label to the full flavor, this wine is anything but shy.

$14, 13% alcohol by volume


More Red Wines | White Wines | More Under $20

Something Sweet: Dessert & Fortified Wines

Some like it sweet — I certainly do.  So I couldn’t wait to explore the world of sweet and fortified wines during the “Sweet Dreams” seminar at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Hosted by Master Sommeliers Laura DePasquale, John Blazon, Eric Hemer and Doug Frost (also a Master of Wine), the seminar featured eight sweet and fortified wines.

We started in Italy with the 2006 I Capitelli, Garganega, Anselmi IGT ($35 for 375 ml) from Veneto.  Garganega is the grape used in this wine and it is harvested late in the season after “Noble Rot.”  The benevolent fungus Botrytis infects the grapes, partially drying them and giving them the appearance of raisins.  This process concentrates the sugar in the grapes, giving the wine its wonderfully sweet flavor (all five dessert wines went through Noble Rot).

Amber in color, the I Capitelli had aromas of apricot, cardamom and sandalwood, with flavors of butterscotch and clover honey.  Moderate to moderate plus acidity gave the wine lift so it never felt syrupy in the mouth (the acidity also made you salivate when you took a sniff).  As the seminar went on the wine developed flavors of milk chocolate and almond.

We then moved on to a pair of white wines from Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington.  The 2006 Eroica Ice Wine ($65 for 375 ml) goes one step beyond a Late Harvest wine, made from grapes that froze on the vine.  My favorite of the two Washington State wines, the Eroica had really nice notes of apricot, grapefruit, white peach and golden apple that lingered on the tongue.

The 2006 Ethos Late Harvest White Riesling ($40 for 375 ml) came from the same area as the Eroica but was harvested one day earlier.  It was not as sweet but still had delicate flavors of lychee, citrus and white flowers.

Next came my favorite of the sweet wines, the 2000 Gewurztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles ($210) from F.E. Trimbach in Alsace, France.  Putting my nose in the glass was like putting it in a bouquet of roses.  The wine was so fragrant, it was really incredible.  Once I was able to go beyond the intoxicating aroma of rose I discovered notes of mandarin orange and dried mango that continued to evolve on the palate.  The finish complemented the experience, lasting for a good minute.  This wine would be perfect with foie gras or crème brûlée.  Considering the uniqueness of the wine and its high price (only the most exceptional grapes are harvested by hand), you’d better believe I enjoyed every last drop.

Following the Gewurztraminer we returned to Italy for the 2007 Privilegio, Fiano Di Avellino ($50 for 500 ml) from Feudi di San Gregorio in Campania.  Made from the Fiano grape, the wine had delicate flavors of lemon, orange peel, candied orange and grapefruit, with a hint of oak.

We then moved to a trio of fortified wines.  These wines maintain their residual sugar by the addition of distilled alcohol (usually Brandy) during the fermentation process.  The alcohol kills the yeast cells, halting fermentation and maintaining the desired level of sweetness.  Fortified wines are higher in alcohol, usually between 17 and 20 percent.

The first fortified wine we tasted was the 2008 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Château de Jau ($25 for 500 ml) from Languedoc-Roussillon in southwest France.  My initial impression was that this pale straw-yellow wine appeared innocent and dainty at first, but finished big and warm, due to the higher alcohol content.  The taste is elegant, clean and fresh, with notes of white flowers, grapefruit and lychee.  It’s a wine I definitely plan to buy so I can enjoy it at home.

Next came the Quinta do Bom Retiro 20-Year Tawny ($70), a Port from Ramos Pinto.  As a big fan of Tawny Port, I really enjoyed sipping this.  It had warm and spicy flavors of cedar, almonds and orange peel.  If you smoke, this is the wine to enjoy with a cigar.  As a non smoker, I plan to enjoy it with a box of dark chocolates.

We ended with the Désirée Chocolate Dessert Wine ($20 for 375 ml) from Rosenblum Cellars in California.  I can’t say I was a big fan of this wine.  The blend of Zinfandel, Touriga Nacional and Syrah was made even sweeter by the addition of chocolate syrup.  I found the wine too thick and sweet, though some in the seminar enjoyed it.  Personally, I’d rather have my chocolate syrup in a dessert rather than in a wine.

These wines do come with a high price tag but keep in mind that you’re not likely to drink as much or as quickly as you would with a traditional white or red.  Because of the high sugar these wines will last longer too.  Just use a good stopper and stick the bottle in the fridge and you can enjoy the wine for a couple of weeks.

All of these wines are available for sale both locally and nationally so give in to your sweet tooth and try a glass!

A Taste of Portugal's Native Grapes

With names like Trajadura, Loureiro, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional, the grapes of Portugal don’t exactly roll off your tongue.  Nor do they have the recognition of a Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay.  But with more than 200 indigenous varietals, Portugal’s wines are definitely exciting to explore.

For a great introduction to Portugal’s wines, I recommend trying the wines from Herdade do Esporão.  I’ve been a fan of Esporao’s wines since I first tasted them last fall.

Monte VelhoEsporão is located in Alentejo, a region in the southeast that covers one third of mainland Portugal.  Hot and humid summers and granitic soil add unique character to the grapes.

For a taste of Portugal’s white varietals, try Esporão’s Monte Velho White.  It’s a blend of Roupeiro, Antão Vaz and Perrum grapes.  It’s fresh and aromatic with flavors of peach and apple.  The finish is clean and crisp.  Try this with seafood or pasta, or as an alternative to Chardonnay.  The Monte Velho White costs around $10.

For a more elegant and refined white try Esporão’s White Reserva.  It’s a rich and fruity mix of Roupeiro, Arinto and Antão Vaz, with hints of vanilla from time spent in new American and French oak barrels.  The White Reserva costs around $20.

Quinta da AveledaIf you’re a fan of Spanish Albariño try a bottle of the 2007 Quinta da Aveleda from the Vinho Verde region in northwest Portugal.  It’s a mix of Trajadura, Loureiro and Alvarinho (the Portuguese name for Albariño).  The wine is complex and dry with a crisp lemon-lime flavor.  A nice minerality and good acidity make this a great wine for shellfish and seafood.  It’s a great value at around $9 a bottle.

For a taste of Portugal’s red varietals try Esporão’s Monte Velho Red, a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonês and Castelão.  The wine has rounded flavors of ripe berries and spice with oak and gentle tannins that give it a good body.  This goes well with a variety of meat dishes and tomato-based pasta dishes.  A bottle costs around $10.

Esporao RedI also really like Esporão’s Red Reserva, a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonês and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It has intense flavors of blackcurrant and cherry, with layers of oak and vanilla spice.  This goes great with beef or lamb.  The Red Reserva costs around $20.

My favorite red wine varietal from Portugal is Touriga Nacional.  This grape produces full-bodied wines that have flavors of blackberries, blueberries and rosemary.  Touriga Nacional is great on its own and can be even better when blended with other grapes.  Try a bottle of this instead of a Cabernet Sauvignon.

In previous years Esporão has produced a delicious single varietal Touriga Nacional.  From this year on the winery will only be producing this wine during exceptional years, so be sure to buy a bottle if you see one at your local wine shop.

Quinta das TecedeirasCasa Santos Lima in the Estremadura region in west central Portugal makes a delicious Touriga Nacional.  The 2007 vintage has big and chewy flavors of spicy deep red fruit.  This goes great with grilled meats.  A bottle of Casa Santos Lima 2007 Touriga Nacional costs around $12.

A more expensive alternative is the Quinta das Tecedeiras 2005 Reserva.  It’s from the Douro region in northern Portugal, which is best known as the source of Port.  The wine is a mix of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Amarela.  It has rich and full-bodied flavors of blackberry, plum and mocha with smooth and lingering tannins.  A sip of this makes you crave steak.  A bottle of Quinta das Tecedeiras 2005 Reserva costs around $28.

If the only wine you’ve ever tried from Portugal is a Port, it’s definitely time to visit your local wine store.

For more information on Herdade do Esporão visit www.esporao.com.

Click here for more information on Portugal’s indigenous grapes.