Why discovering Portuguese history, and some wines from Portugal’s Esporão Group, helps to put wine into an overall perspective. Culture plays an enormous role in what the flavors of wine become. Yes, we can grab a bottle of wine and just throw it back, but that’s not savoring the moment. Wine is still part of civility and culture; so, the more we know the more we appreciate each drop. If that were not the case the many layer of wine appreciation wouldn’t exist. Grab a bottle, get toasted, and move on? Many of us want more in life, and wine plays a really important part in the process.

(Tasting notes at the end of this historical perspective.)

In Portugal's Alentejo region, Alicante Bousch...

Image via Wikipedia

First Discovery

Let’s First Slip into Lisbon Via the Tagus River

Portuguese wine is on my mind today, because Portugal is certainly one of the places I’d love to revisit, perhaps a place to live the rest my days. Ever since visiting, I’ve felt a yearning, especially in the Alentejo region. Its earthy terroir, handcrafted arts, and friendly people with ancient traditions… they all still exist. New has been coalesced with old, and it simply continues on in a well-balanced way. It’s gracious and alluring; and, it just felt like, “home.” Have you ever had that experience, too?

The Alentejo Wine Region is a distinctive adventure in some very cool ways. From its earth’s composition, a near obsession with Moorish architecture (771 AD), to its constant culinary cuisine. That’s due to its passion for fresh fish, an abundance of which has been caught along its Atlantic coastline. – and, most important to them is the cod. Lisbon is an inlet from the Atlantic Coast along the Tagus River. By land, it’s just a half mile to the Atlantic. I took this restaurant image at Porto de Santa Maria, on Guincho Road, located on the Atlantic, just north of Lisbon. The freshness of the fish is what I’m wanting to show you… from the sea to your plate, with only the cooking in between.

[PHOTO, Server with the day’s fresh catch: Jo Diaz, all rights reserved.] This image was taken at Porto de Santa Maria, on Guincho Road. It’s located on the Atlantic Ocean, north of Lisbon. The freshness of the fish is what I’m wanting to show you… from the sea to your plate, with only the cooking in between.

Portugal’s Esporão Group Wines in the Alentejo

“It is a region that arouses passions, that awakens our soul and makes us want to know more and better. Alentejo is one of the most beautiful regions of the country, requires a long narrative, with a continued presence and attentive in time and space, something that cannot be revealed here at all. The region breathes a history steeped in periods of turmoil and peace. A land where culture and tradition go hand in hand. There is something profoundly reinvigorating and redeemer in Alentejo, in the endless space, the vastness of the plains with large oak trees, the wide sky in a spotless blue, the infinite horizon and, obviously, in its people, the quiet people, honest and proud of Alentejo.”

And, from the Wines of Portugal: (Regarding the Alentejo)

A region of rolling plains, the Alentejo has a relatively smooth and flat landscape that stretches across almost a third of mainland Portugal.

[PHOTO: Jo Diaz ~ Ceramics from a little shop in Monsaraz, Portugal, reflecting their artful ability. All rights reserved]

Islamic Past and Medieval Influences 

Human beings have lived in Portugal since about 30,000 BC, according to Tim Lambert, A Brief History of Portugal, Local Stories

Human beings have lived in Portugal since about 30,000 BC when the world was in the grip of an ice age. The first Portuguese were hunters and fishermen. They also gathered plants for food. They wore leather clothes and they made stone tools. In about 5,000 BC farming was introduced to Portugal. However, the farmers continued to use stone tools. Bronze was introduced to Portugal in about 2,000 BC. About 700 BC Celtic tribes entered Portugal from the north. Meanwhile, by 800 BC, the Phoenicians from what is now Lebanon had begun trading with the Portuguese. (They wanted Portuguese tin for making bronze). By about 600 BC the Greeks were also trading with Portugal. In 210 BC the Romans invaded the Iberian Peninsula.

They introduced iron to Portugal. And on it goes. Follow more here. In 711 BC, the Moors from North Africa invaded the Iberian peninsula. They quickly conquered what is now southern Portugal and they ruled it for centuries. However, they were unable to permanently subdue northern Portugal. In their histories come the Romans in 200 BC. … and the Roman brought  wine.

Portuguese Wines ~ Moorish Influences

History, architecture, art, foods, and wines had some serious Moorish Influences. It’s everywhere, and the white washing of building… fastidious. Great to see a culture without an overpowering military. Seriously, a lot of their culture is in balance, without their military. People are more joyful.

Portugal is west from Spain, as it stretches from the Atlantic Ocean eastward to Spain. Make no mistake about it. Don’t try to talk about any blending at either border. Just for perspective, Napa and Sonoma clearly don’t do that, right? Tribes gather everywhere, even in just small regions, including some neighborhoods. There is culture, in more ways than one, in every single wine neighborhood. It’s a fascination, for those who just lo and live the lifestyle. There is one, you know, and there’s no denying it. Welcome to it, if you got this far. 

[PHOTO of Belem Tower: Jo Diaz, all right reserved] The influences of the Moors around the world have left an interesting architectural phenomena. Unlike the Christian architecture, which has pointed spires, the Moors left behind rounded sculptures. I first came across them in Puerto Rico. What I find totally intriguing is the yin yang of these two influence. One is rounded and soft (Moors). The other is pointed an jagged (Christians). In the above image, you can see how the Moors left their mark.

PHOTO of Monsaraz: Jo Diaz, all rights reserved]

Headed to the Monsaraz, Alentejo

All Lisbon’s History and Culture Comes Along

Monsaraz is a very small, Medieval village; and a must do, if you’re visiting the Alentejo region. If walls could only talk of days gone by. The walls are white washed, as is much of Portugal. Tiles are everywhere (Moors origin), with images that draw you in, at least they did for me. Enough so as to have created my own YouTube video.

PHOTO of Monsaraz: Jo Diaz, all rights reserved]

About its history, from the Portuguese Travel Guide: The Hilltop Village of Monsaraz, Published on 21 Sep 2021, by MWH
Monsaraz exudes the true essence of medieval Portugal

Perched high above the River Guadiana close to the frontier with Spain, the tiny medieval walled village of Monsaraz to the east of Évora is one of the most atmospheric places in the entire Alentejo region.

With its narrow cobbled lanes, low-rise houses and striking picture-book castle, visitors can feel the true essence of medieval Portugal in one of the oldest places in southern Europe.

Monsaraz has been inhabited since prehistoric times as the Celts, Romans, Visigoths and Moors each took full advantage of the hill’s defensive potential.

It’s always such a pleasure to write about their wine. This time it’s with the help of insights from Esporão Wines. And, never forget, these wines are incredibly priced, just going on record here.

First, the white blend. It’s totally, deliciously refreshing, with bright acidity, and exciting new varieties for many. It’s a flashback, for when I was in Portugal, finding new flavors and new wine friends.

Portugal’s Esporão Group Wines

Special Blend of 2021 Esporão Monte Velho White

The 2021 Esporão Monte Velho White and the 2021 Esporão Rose Monte Rosé are both fermented in stainless steel. They have a light touch of residual sugar, to highlight their fruit’s freshness. Great for sipping or with appetizers – olives, salted almonds, charcuterie. It’s also very food friendly. The Esporão Wines suggest you “enjoy with a weeknight dinner or romantic picnic for two.”

[PHOTO of Monte Velho: Jo Diaz, all rights reserved]

The 2021 Esporão Monte Velho White Composition:

  • 40 percent Antão Vaz
    • Known for being full-bodied, and belonging to a Mediterranean climate. Think of these fruits that have typical flavors of citrus and stone fruits, with riper winegrapes, think of more alcohol aromas and perfume.
  • 40 percent Roupeiro.
    • The region dominated by (80%) reds, it takes commitment to produce stand-out whites. Antão Vaz, with its vibrant tropical fruit flavors, is the full-bodied white star of Alentejo. Perfumed Roupeiro adds citrus notes and acidity.
    • These two strong personalities are bridged by the softening Perrum, a grape that has the added advantage of being a low-sugar producer. Combine the three and you have a fresh yet concentrated wine, with notes of ripe white fruits and a lingering minerality of citrus finish.
  • 20 percent Perrum
    • Well known in the production of Sherry

Tasting: I totally loved this wine. It took me back in time to flavors of Portugal. The pride themselves on staying true to their  indigenous grapes. They been working them since they can remember. They know the flavors, terroir, and end results. Plus, they pair so well with their foods. When I was working with a Portuguese company. I did a bit of research on their indigenous varieties: both White Portuguese varieties and Red Portuguese varieties. By the time I got finished the project, I had found over 700 wine grapes indigenous to Portugal and its history.

[PHOTO of Monte Velho: Jo Diaz, all rights reserved]

2021 Monte Velho Rosé, a blend of Alentejo special wines

This Rose wine is the most recent addition to the trio, making its U.S. debut in spring 2022 with the 2021 vintage. It’s very refreshing and hold the quality and value of the 2021 Esporão Monte Velho White.

The 2021 Esporão Monte Velho Rose Composition

  • RED WINE BLEND is an exciting combination:
    • Touriga Nacional ~ This is a low yielding grape variety, still it’s considered to be Portugal’s finest.
    • Aragonez ~ This is the first known Iberian grape variety.
    • Syrah ~ This variety is best known as a French Rhone variety, but also does well in Portugal.
    • Trincadeira ~ This grape variety is usually found in Port wines.
    • WHITE WINE to blend: for smoothness: Arinto ~ This one produces high acid wines, and helps with the red ones to remain a rosé.

The Rosé was the first of the two that I tasted and enjoyed right away. It’s totally scrumptious. It was so delicious on a 100 degree day in Sonoma County… Flavors of tart lemon… Lingering excitement, begging for more. Not just poolside, but any time you need a rose, this could be a “house wine.”

Both wines: Suggested retail is $12 each | bottle. If you wonder why import wines are so affordable, reflect on the real estate from each country. This helps for perspective.


Statements from Portugal’s Esporão Group Wines

  • Each wine is certified vegan by the European Vegetarian Union. In the spirit of delivering more eco-friendly packaging, the wines come in lighter weight bottles (certified ISO 9001), shipped in cartons made from 100% varnish-free (certified ISO 14001), recycled cardboard. Monte Velho (pronounced MON-teh VELL-yo), meaning “old mound,” references a high point on the Herdade do Esporão estate, capped by the ancient square fortress depicted on the labels.
  • Esporão Group is a leading advocate for eco-practices, as more and more Portuguese growers adopt the same integrated production system as practiced at Esporão. These sustainable measures, which preclude the use of pesticides and herbicides, are crucial to soil quality and therefore wine quality. For example, sustainably raised vines are better able to withstand drought, a major concern in this naturally arid region. The clay-ey, big-pored soil also helps hold precious water. The clay is fragmented schist, and the low fertility soil here is a mix of granite and schist. Fruit for the Monte Velho duo comes from vines that are, on average, 18 years old – surprising, and a real value in light of the $12 SRP.
  • Esporão Group: One of Portugal’s premier wine companies, with wines sold in 50 countries, Esporão is also an eco-wine tourism pioneer, starting with its namesake Herdade do Esporão property in Alentejo. In 2008, Esporão acquired Quinta dos Murças in the Douro, followed by Quinta do Ameal in Vinho Verde in 2019. Tourism opportunities exist at all three. The portfolio also includes estate-produced olive oils and Sovina Craft Beer. https://www.esporao.com/en/