Travel Guide to Portugal

Portuguese Wines to Ward Off the Winter

By Ryan Opaz

 ScreenI know it’s a bit obvious, but I think it’s worth restating, it’s damn cold; so cold that an unlimited supply of wool blankets and crackling fireplaces won’t eradicate the persistent, internal chill. During these trying times, I find myself reaching for liquid comfort when the mercury dips below zero, preferably from a fortified or rich red wine. The Alentejo, Dão and Bairrada are fantastic regions filled with winter-friendly wines. In the Alentejo, for example, the wines are imbued with summer heat which was absorbed into the grapes during the hot summer months. Often the wines are from grapes such as Aragonez (Tempranillo) and Trincadeira, both of which can help soothe the winter throws. These are rich, dense, food friendly wines that will coat your insides. That said, the Douro is just a stone’s throw from us; and as a result, we find it consistently makes its way to our table.
Today, to help offer some relief,  allow me to provide you with a few winter-friendly wines from both the Alentejo and the Douro. If you can find these in your neck of the woods pick them up and let us know what you think.

2012 Esporão Reserva & 2011 Esporão Private Selection

To begin, it’s worth stating that these bottles are beautiful. Every year, Esporão contracts a different artist to design their labels, but this year is especially noteworthy. Adorned in either a blue and red swath of color, behind monochromatic views of the rolling Alentejo countryside, it’s a simple, stunning and classy design. Good aesthetics make anything more enjoyable – wine is no exception. The 2012 Esporão Reserva is rich with spices, red fruit and a certain meatiness, it’s red label the perfect match to what’s inside. The 2011 Esporão Private Selection, on the other hand, is a more structured with an aristocratic air about it. This is a wine to age, with rich blue fruits and rich tannin; again the labels blue color matching the liquid within. In reality, both wines needed time to evolve, or simply days/months/decades to open. They were restrained and hesitant to share their secrets; but I will give you this. If you decant it, then grill yourself a steak – or better yet cook up a rich beef stew – and let the thickness of the meat help tame the youthfulness of the wine, you won’t be disappointed.

ScreenFlor das Tecedeiras

This is what I love about the Douro, a rich wine with smooth tannins and that little touch of violets and schist. Flor das Tecedeiras is a great wine to chew on alongside a roaring fire with an intense conversation about film, or literature, but never politics. But choose your topic wisely. You wouldn’t want to destroy that delicate fruit with a head-butting debate on healthcare. No, this is a wine to discuss your favorite writer or movie director’s stylistic changes over time, allowing yourself short moments of silence to swirl your glass and smile inwardly. No need for food, just a nice slice of artistic debate. I did just such a thing a week ago with a good friend. The state of photography online was one of the discussions that flowed, of course was inspired by the wine.
What are you drinking as the weather keeps you indoors? How are you warming up?
Ryan Opaz

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Since 2005, Catavino has been exploring the Iberian Peninsula
looking for the very best food and wine experiences.

Since 2005, Catavino has been exploring the Iberian Peninsula looking for the very best food and wine experiences.

Catavino is the best place to learn about travel, food
and wine in Portugal and Spain.

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