A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Espadeiro - Vinho Verde, Portugal

I'm currently on vacation for the Thanksgiving holiday, but while visiting my in-laws in Pittsburgh, I came across this wine that I just had to pick up and write about.  I have a few other wines from the Vinho Verde region back home that I'll be writing about in the near future, but this wine was made completely from Espadeiro grapes, which was completely new to me, and I decided to do something I've never done before: I'll be writing today's post while I'm drinking the wine in question.  I usually record my notes in a little book I have and have written about some wines up to several months after I actually drank them, but since these Vinho Verde wines are best enjoyed fresh, I thought it would be interesting to write about it while it was fresh in my mind as well.

Espadeiro is not just one grape, but rather a small family of grapes that are all, as far as I know, related to one another.  The two main varieties are Espadeira Tinto and Espadeira Mole, which I'm guessing are distinguished based on the color of the grape skins, though I'm not completely sure.  There are some sources that will have you believe that Espadeiro is the same as the Port grape Tinta Amarela, but this is only true for what is called Espadeiro in the area around Lisbon.  In the Vinho Verde region, Espadeiro is a distinct variety that is unrelated to Tinta Amarela.  There are a handful of synonyms for the grape, but most of them seem to be very geographically specific and don't really concern us here. The grape is considered a high quality variety on the Vinho Verde website, though the Oxford Companion to wine is slightly less enthusiastic about and really only references the grapes ability to yield profusely and ripen to low sugar levels.

This wine is from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal which is located in the extreme northern part of the country, just under the overhanging Spanish region of Galicia (Espadeira is also grown in Galicia, and surprisingly goes by the same name in both countries).  It's easy to forget that Vinho Verde is the name of a wine region and not just the name of a style of wine, as most of the wines here are white and made from slightly underripe grapes with a hint of residual CO2, which can give them the "green" character alluded to in the name of the region and wine.  There is a proportion of still red wine and rosé wine produced in the region, though they are definitely a little tougher to track down than their white counterparts.  Vinho Verde is subdivided into nine different sub-regions, and Espadeiro is recommended for cultivation in eight of them, with Monção being the only exception.

I picked up a bottle of the 2010 Quinta de Gomariz Espadeira Colheita Seleccionada from one of the state stores here around Pittsburgh, PA, for about $10.  As mentioned above, in an unusual move for the site, I've been writing about the wine as I've been drinking it.  For those interested in the micro-terroirs of the Vinho Verde region, this wine is from the Ave region and the grapes are grown on primarily granitic soils.  In the glass, the wine has a medium salmon pink color with a little bit of orange to it and some very tiny bubbles flying around.  The nose is very aromatic with strawberry and watermelon fruits and a leesy, cheesy kind of funk to it.  Right out the bottle, there were orange citrus aromas and flavors, but as the wine sat and developed into glass number two, these orange citrus notes moved over towards pink grapefruit and have stayed pretty firmly put.  On the palate, the wine is medium bodied with acidity just slightly on the higher side of medium and is just off-dry (there is nearly 8 g/l of residual sugar, but the wine tastes much more dry than sweet).  There is a prickle of residual CO2 as well.  There are flavors of strawberry and grapefruit citrus with a sort of tropical fruit component to it that tastes a bit like pineapple to me.  There's a bitter grapefruit pith flavor that persists through the finish.  Overall, I like this quite a bit. It's developing in interesting ways right in front of me and has enough going on to keep me interested.  It's also delicious and is the kind of thing I wish I had found when I was down here in June rather than now in November.  The price here is phenomenal and this wine way over-delivers at the $10 price point.  It also would have been a good starter wine for our Thanksgiving meal a few days ago, but I don't like to force others to go on these vinous expeditions with me, so I held this bottle back for myself.

UPDATE - I recently wrote about another Vinho Verde wine made from a grape called Padeiro, and in that post, I take another look at the Espadeiro grape and clear up some confusions.  That post can be read here.

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