The brand that I’ve been recently fortunate to discover is Herdade do Esporão.

Drop your tongue behind your lower teeth, to pronounce Esporáo. There’s a YouTube video is at the end of this story, on Portuguese vowel pronunciations, in case you enjoy new languages. After returning to Portugal’s Alentejo region, via my images and stories on my wine-blog in preparation for new info, my curiosity and previous story Herdade do Esporão ~ Part 1 Alentejo were indeed inspired by this new brand… Herdade do Esporáo. And, today my Portuguese romance continues.

[PHOTO: Artisan’s studio in Monsaraz, the town where this company is based. All photos in this story are property of Jo Diaz; all rights reserved, unless otherwise noted.]

So, their name “Esporão”

“Esporão” means “spur.” How spur relates to wine (not to cowboy boot spurs): Viticultural spurs are the stub of a cane that contains one to three buds. Spur pruning is a more traditional training method known to produce outstanding old vine wines. “Esporão” is an unusual and inspired name, for a winery. In the US, many people attach their own names to wine company, wanting a legacy to live on. Having a name like “Esporão” created a name giving this family an inside edge to educate. It’s now a wine company for all ages in time. One who knows wine grape growing and winemaking, knows this method’s association with integrity. I like the unique choice of Herdade’s winery name; it has a unique significance. And, that’s to have others learn a bit about growing, the care, and life cycle of wine grapes. A “spur” such an intricate and integral part of the growing process.


For the record, all 1,317 acres (533 hectares) of Herdade do Esporão are certified organic, starting with the 2019 vintage. Sustainability is fortunately becoming an important standard and great to see it in Portugal, as well as other countries.

What struck me the most about this brand is their commitment to their environmental sustainability.

The two key people that I met through a ZOOM meeting are:

  • Esporão Group Chairman João Roquette, one of the most influential people in the Portuguese wine industry today, who briefed the group of media people on the evolution of his company’s founding estate and his vision for the future.
  • And, Herdade do Esporão Director of Winemaking Sandra Alves, who walked us through recent happenings at the estate, and for those who had not already prepared, by tasted through the wines.

In the meeting, João spoke of one regret.

João wishes he has started earlier, as it took so many year for him to get certification, taking steps from A to B, and so on. It was what João said that was all-telling and also gave me an edge for understanding his frustrations. As he described in great detail about the past 10 years of establishing authentic, organic practices, that his one regret is that he didn’t get it all done sooner, at a faster speed, if you will. For organic certification: The process took 11 years, starting in 2008. Conversion to organic farming and production is a huge undertaking when you are dealing with 533 ha/1,317 acres of vineyard, as well as olive groves, orchards, and kitchen gardens. Now, Herdade do Esporão is helping two of its 16 grower suppliers move to organic production as well.

I thought about it and realized that hindsight is always helpful, because it’s 20-20 vision. What I’ve found, though, working with so many US brands, meeting the standards that governments have established just takes a heck of a lot of bureaucratic time and red tape. Execution is one thing (following guidelines); being under a government’s microscope for proof, however, completely and tediously slows down the practice. The paperwork, for instance… Need I say more? So, as much as we wish we could have beaten a clock, the government will never let that happen… And, for good reason, really. Imagine if it was quick and easy. How many brands would simply fudge it? There are no quick and easy answers for sustainability certifications; except for, when it’s done, every “i” was dotted and every “t” was crossed.

From Herdade do Esporáo:


This image of a cork tree really excites me. Driving along the region of Redondo, I spied cork trees and asked if we could stop long enough to take this picture. On the tree you (barely) see the tree’s process. Cork was removed in 2007. That tree would not be harvested again for another nine years… So 2016 it was, and now the next harvest will be 2025.

From the winery:

Part of the Alentejo’s montado ecosystem (cork oak forests), in Portugal, Herdade do Esporão has extraordinary conditions for agriculture – large thermal amplitudes, poor and various soils and extraordinary biodiversity that helps us produce in balance with the environment. With 691.9 hectars [1710 acres] of vineyards, olive groves and the other crops we grow using organic methods. Here are planted around 40 grape varieties, 4 types of olives, orchards and kitchen gardens.

This cork farm is one that I visited, when I was last in Portugal. My friend Delfim Costa stopped his car as we were driving by, due to my excitement and curiosity. He was a great ambassador for the Alentejo…

From the winery:

“Classic wine is obtained solely from our grapes, in organic production mode. The diversity of Herdade do Esporão, together with the different characteristics of the varieties, the soils, the maturity of the vines and the people who consistently make this wine over the years, result in a rich, intense, but always harmonious wine.”

Based in the Alentejo Region of Portugal

From blistering white stucco and cork farms, to sheep and black pigs, with everything in between – including wine and olive oils, the Alentejo is for your discovery.

Esporão Colheita Organic Wines from Herdade do Esporão

The new wines have arrived in the United States, which complements the Esporão range. The wines are vibrant and a direct tasting profile reflecting the diversity and characteristics of the grapes – the first certified in Organic Mode of Production – and the seven types of soil at Herdade do Esporão.

The winery has a focused concept for the wines they plant, nurture, and then bring into wine production.

Wines are produced solely from grapes grown at Herdade do Esporáo, by applying organic farming methods. These habits help to express the typical features of each vintage, diversity of the soil where the vines are planted, and the character identity of each selected variety. The soils that typify these wines are derived from a granite/schist origin, having a clay/loam structure.

*All 1,317 acres of Herdade do Esporão are certified organic, starting with the 2019 vintage stating the following about “schist” soil:

“Soil plays a massive role in the way a final wine tastes. It may seem insignificant, but the composition and texture of the dirt in which vines grow play a serious part in what is translated to the bottle. Breaking down the subject, its effects on wine, and the countless types of soil that exist worldwide, can be a beast of a subject, though one thing’s for sure: you should definitely give a *schist.*

Schist soils are comprised of hard, dense rocks that are layered with minerals. These soils are generally flaky, retain heat well, and create some of the world’s biggest and boldest reds…if the minerals that comprise the rock are visible and less-marked by a clean split, the rock is called schist.

While, the Southern Website defines Clay Loam’s soil structure:

Clay loam is a soil mixture that contains more clay than other types of rock or minerals. A loam is a soil mixtures that is named for the type of soil that is present in the greatest amount. The particles of clay are very small, which is one of its most important characteristics. For this reason, loams that contain a great deal of clay tend to be heavy, because they are so dense. While this soil type can be difficult to work with, it can also be improved to be a very good growing medium.

Specific soils play a significant role in a grape vines health and wealth of harvested fruit. “We are what we eat,” so says the vines.

Getting Down to the Herdade do Esporáo Wines

Esporão Colheita Blanco (White) 2020* / SRP $18

I highly recommend the following wines; they’re people-pleasers. And, if you never step outside of your comfort zone, you’ll never know what delights each variety holds… It’s like your siblings or children; no two are exactly alike… Even identical twins rarely fooling their parents. Dare to explore Herdade do Esporáo

[PHOTO: bottle images from Herdade do Esporáo]

It has a very smooth, yet crisp, level of acidity and tropical fruit flavors. Jose got honey, I got minerality and then melon, reminding me just-a-bit like a Sauvignon Blanc… Its light, lively, lusciousness drew me right in, and was extremely easy to enjoy. It would make a great wine for cheeses, like an aged cheddar, a gourd, and/or a Havarti. 

The wine’s components are really interesting, and will deliver an extraordinary experience:

  • Antão Vaz – 30%
    • WINE SEARCHER: Antão Vaz is one of Portugal’s top white-wine grape varieties. Grown mainly around the hot, dry region of Alentejo, it is usually used in the production of varietal wines, which exude ripe, tropical fruit flavors
    • Antão Vas delivers Granny Smith apple flavors a round freshness, on my palate.
  • Viosinho – 30%
    • WINE SEARCHER: This is a high-quality white-wine grape variety (usually) from northeastern Portugal. It seems to be doing extremely well, in the southeastern area, as well… as evidenced in this wine produced.
    • This variety brings a citrus and honey overtone freshness the wine.
  • Alvarinho  – 30%
    • DECANTER: Championed by winemakers in both Spain and Portugal, this white grape is becoming known for the diverse, high quality wines it can produce.
    • Known for its aroma of orange blossoms, the Alvarinho delivers minerality.
  • Other varieties – 10% – Indistinguishable for me, beyond the three solid mentioned.

[PHOTO CREDIT FOOD: 20fifteen ~ COMBINATION: Jo Diaz] This Jack Cheese and olives would be great compliments.



Esporão Colheita Red 2018 / SRP $18

Deep purple, it comes on like a velvet robe, with a satin lining. Rush of raspberry and ripe plums. Long, lingering finish, left me wanting more. Very easy to enjoy, and extremely food friendly. A lot of wine for your money… Enjoy it.

  • Touriga Nacional 30%
    • Lighter blue and plum colored fruits: like blueberries and plums, with ripe blackberries on the finish. You can also pick up hints of dark chocolate (due to its dark fruit, a hint of mint, and violet on the finish.
  • Aragonez 25%
    • Some a hints of plum, Bing cherries, and both red and blackberries. What dominated for me here was the Bing cherries. I’ll never get enough Bing cherries. When present, it’s all I have on my mind for a while.
  • Touriga Franca 20%
    • Softer flavors of Rose petals and pomegranate came through predominantly, and graphite from the soil brought in some earthiness. This one also adds the pepper spice.
  • Alicante Bouschet 15%
    • This one is rare, to be sure, but totally Portuguese in its “element.” It’s all about the red skin, Baby, and this one delivers the color!
  • Cabernet Sauvignon 10%
    • Cab, most people’s big boy, is a dry, single focused variety, and a tool in a winemaker’s toolbox. (Working with a Petite Sirah would deliver more longevity, due to more tannins, but I understand the use of Cab. I say this only because I’ve been working with 2002, as a scholar of it, listening to growers and producers. Like Portuguese varieties, this is my fringe element.)

[PHOTO CREDIT FOOD: karandaev ~ COMBINATION: Jo Diaz]: Perfect with grilled sliced beef steak or black boar, with a balsamic, rosemary, and red wine on a stone slab.


Esporão Reserva Branco 2020* / SRP $20

A more complex white wine than the Blanc. Color is a mature, straw yellow. Flavors are rich and dense. (Reminds me of a highly structured Chardonnay.) What grape variety? Lingering honey and vanilla.

“The 2020 agricultural year registered temperatures slightly higher than the average, of the last 21 years; while the precipitation values ​​were identical to the values ​​registered in the same period. With a mild and rainy winter and spring, there was a good restoration of water reserves in the vineyard, which translated into good vegetative growth compared to 2019. The summer was very hot and dry, with very high temperatures in July, which resulted in anticipation of the harvest by about 2 weeks compared to the previous year. The climatic conditions recorded in the painter-maturity period favored gradual maturation, which allowed for a selective harvest, favoring the expression and quality of each variety.”

Granitic/schist nature, clay loam structure.

15 to 25 years

  • Antão Vaz 30%
    • Antão Vaz is one of Portugal’s important white wine grape varieties. It prefers hot, dry regions in the Alentejo. It’s does well as a blender wine, with ripe, tropical fruit flavors.
    • Antão Vaz delivers Granny Smith apple flavors a round freshness, on my palate.
  • Roupeiro 30%
    • Roupeiro must be constrained. It creates a wine that’s high in alcohol; however, the right amount has its advantages. It loves elevation. This wine is not as age-worth of others, so well blended with an age-worthy one is the real balance for it.
    • Roupeiro has flavors of citrus, on one hand, and stone fruit – like peaches and apricots – on the other.
  • Arinto 30%
    • Arinto is the age-worthy white wine in this blend. It has the capability to evolve over the years. This one has a bees waxy and nutty flavor.
  • Others 10% –
    • Indistinguishable for me, beyond the five other varieties

This Reserve white wine deserves something extraordinary, so lets go – Pastel de Nata, Portugal’s most famous dessert, which you’ll find in pasty. Notice the tiles as a background. Everything about Portugal say “tiles,” here, there, and everywhere. Pastel de Nata is Portugal’s most famous dessert; small, egg-custard tarts in filo dough, sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon and sugar.



Esporão Reserva Red

Deep purple, it comes on like a velvet robe, with a satin lining. Rush of raspberry and ripe plums. Long, lingering finish, left me wanting more. Very easy to enjoy, and extremely food friendly. A lot of wine for your money… Enjoy it.

This wine is quite the mélange in its blending, and is equally delicious as the rest of their Esporão wines.

  • Aragonez
  • Trincadeira
  • Syrah
  • Touriga Nacional
  • Touriga Franca
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Alicante Bouschet

The winemaking team described it as black fruit jam, with spices of black pepper and cloves, adding notes of spices and dark chocolate, with a persistent finish. I can’t do better than that. I found everything they’ve described. I don’t usually tell what other wine writers have given to wines for scores. Why should I, says every wine writer of his or her worth. But I’m breaking my rule with this one, due to the consistency of scores given by Wine Advocate (90 points), Wine Spectator (90 points), and Wine Enthusiast (91 points). With this being only $25, how could anyone not want to learn what the high scores are all about? And, I hadn’t read these scores until right now, as I was checking the varieties used to make this wine blend. It’s a best kept secret and under-priced, people.

Forget the coffee in this image, just bring me the wine! This Reserve red wine deserves something extraordinary, so lets go – Pastel de Nata, Portugal’s most famous dessert, which you’ll find in pasty. Notice the tiles as a background. Everything about Portugal say “tiles,” here, there, and everywhere. Pastel de Nata is Portugal’s most famous dessert; small, egg-custard tarts in filo dough, sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon and sugar. Red wine has the right balance for this rich dessert and what a great way to end a meal!

[PHOTO CREDIT FOOD: annapustynnikova ~ COMBINATION: Jo Diaz]:


PHOTO: Jo Diaz, all rights reserved.

FINAL STATEMENT: Wines are an adventure, there is no other beverage that has this profound effect on people. The more you get into wine, the deeper in you go.

The places, the people, the processes… And, for me personally, the Alentejo is still quite heartwarming, and now I have more friends than ever.