Guest Blogger: Jameson Fink recently visited Esporão’s properties in Portugal on a press trip. He writes his own blog “Wine Without Worry” and you can also find his writings at Foodista.com where he is the Wine Editor. He has traveled the world of wine and spent over 6 years in the retail wine business. In this post, he shares his experience in learning about Portuguese grape varieties.
Learning the names of new wine grapes can be a challenge. Just when you master Viognier, along comes Gewürztraminer to send you into full-blown panic mode. On a recent trip to Portugal to visit Herdade do Esporão and Quinta dos Murças, I was confronted with a whole new set of grapes that I’d never laid eyes on nor had poured into a glass. Luckily, Esporão has two wines that make it possible to ease into the world of Portuguese grapes and order with confidence: the white “2 Castas” and the red “4 Castas”.
Castas refers to grape varieties, and I hope you are familiar with the numbers 2 and 4. We enjoyed the 2011 2 Castas on the patio of Quinta dos Murças in the Douro. It’s a blend of Viosinho, which you probably haven’t heard of, and Semillon, which you may have heard of and is a bit of a tribute to chief winemaker David Baverstock’s Aussie heritage. I like the idea that this is a wine you can order in a restaurant or pick up off the shelf by its prominently displayed “2”. And, when you get a chance to spend more time with this wine, you can leisurely research the Viosinho grape.
It’s a wine that’s fantastic with seafood, vegetables, and spicier fare, or even just a bowl of almonds. And it’s downright sensational with these crispy crab cakes, which are notable for their lack of almost anything besides crab inside as well as the clever use of the claws as a kind of crustacean toothpick. It also pairs well with this view on a lazy afternoon, watching the river and the clouds pass by:
A glass of the 2 Castas is also much appreciated after exploring the dramatic vineyards of the Douro via a harrowing car ride with blind curves and significant guardrail-free exposure. It really soothes the frayed nerves. I think I’m barely holding it together in this photo:
If you’re more of a red wine drinker, do not pass up the 2010 4 Castas; a blend of Aragonês, Tinta Muida, Tinta Caiada, and Alfrocheiro. It’s a big, bold red, for all your grilled meats. It will impose its will on you like this rock in the vineyards of Esporão in the Alentejo region:
I returned from this trip excited to know that beyond Port and Vinho Verde there is a breadth of red and white wines, as well as red and white wine grapes, to explore. Just remember the numbers 2 and 4 and you’ll be off to a great start on a Portuguese wine adventure.