May Wine Club

May 24, 2024

There was a time when I thought of the wines from Spain and Portugal; I assumed big reds with strong tannins and overly extracted fruit. Over the years, I have learned that I was quite wrong about that, and after exploring the region more, it has led me to find some of the most unique and fresh wines that are very terroir-driven and that showcase a sense of place I want to explore more. So, for the kick-off of our high season in Harbor Country (as we call it), we share three distinctive whites from the Iberian Peninsula. Its diverse geographical qualities include mountains like the great Pyrenees, plains like the Meseta Centrail Plateau and long coastlines and rivers such as the Ebro, Tagus, and Douro. The climate varies from the Mediterranean climate on the eastern and southern coasts to the northwest’s oceanic environment and the interior’s continental climate. These differences impact the region’s agriculture, flora, and fauna, allowing for different expressions of the over 350 indigenous grape varietals. The wines that follow are so vastly different from one another and really highlight the diversity of the region.

P. & E. Mullins

2022 Morgado do Quintao

Algarve, Portugal

Morgado do Quintão, is owned by Filipe Caldas de Vasconcellos. It is a historic estate in Algarve located in Southern Portugal. The estate has been in his mother’s family for four generations, has thousand-year-old trees, and spans 60 hectares of vineyards. Filipe saw the value of the old vines and brought in winemaker Joana Maçanita for her expertise in viticulture and minimal intervention winemaking, which aligned with his own philosophies. Joana shares Filipe’s mission to highlight the potential of indigenous grape varieties like this 100% Crato Branco, coming from 40-year-old vines which have always been organically farmed. This single vineyard wine is a pure expression of Algarve terroir, dry-farmed and tended all by hand. The winemaking process emphasizes minimal intervention, with spontaneous fermentation using wild yeasts. The wine is aged in stainless steel for six months, with five months of lees contact. A small amount of sulfur is added at bottling, and the wine is filtered but not fined. The vineyard is just five miles from the Atlantic Ocean, and its’ cool maritime influence and the warm Levante winds that blow from Africa benefit it. The soil is a mix of iron-rich sandy loess and limestone. The wine is bright and clean, with pale lemon yellow in the glass. The nose has notes of white flowers and wet stone. The palate makes you think of Meyer lemon, which is an excellent complement to its’ dry, lengthy finish.

2022 Nivarius Tempranillo Blanco

Rioja, Spain

Nivarius is not your average Rioja producer, as it specializes exclusively in white wines. Situated in the southern Rioja, Nivarius benefits from the fertile surroundings of the Iregua River, which originates in the Sierra Dememada Mountain range. While the valley floor is rich with fruit and nut trees, Nivarius’ vineyards are planted at higher elevations and are the highest in Rioja. This cooler, windier area is perfect for cultivating white wines. The soils in their vineyards vary, including volcanic iron-rich clay, calcareous clay, and sandy soil. Nivarius distinguishes itself further by planting Tempranillo Blanco and Maturana Blanca, native varietals recently approved by the Rioja Appellation. This wine is 100% Tempranillo Blanco, which is not a “blanc de noir” style wine; it is actually a mutation of Tempranillo discovered in the late 1980s and authorized for White Rioja production since 2007. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, the wine also spends four months on lees post-fermentation. In the glass, you can see the weight of this wine, which is a light golden hue. There are aromas of bubblegum that carry throughout the palate. If you close your eyes when you taste this, you might almost think it was a red wine with all the red berry fruit on the creamy palate.

2022 Luis Seabra “Xisto Ilimitado” Branco

Douro, Portugal

For nearly twenty years, winemaker Luis Seabra has been a critical figure in the transformation of Portuguese wine. He has been a trailblazer, reviving historical vineyards, grape varieties, and traditional techniques. Seabra aims to demonstrate that the Douro Valley can produce fresh, elegant, terroir-driven still wines. When you open this wine, you’ll see he has been quite successful with that. His deep knowledge of soil and commitment to minimal intervention in the vineyard and winery has earned him international recognition. He is known for his dedication to old vineyards, as he believes that mature vines are more resilient and better able to express the unique characteristics of their terroirs. Xisto Ilimitado, a field blend of four indigenous varieties from three subzones in the Douro, is Seabra’s Portuguese take on a “village” level Burgundy. The essence of the schist-driven terroir is captured in this wine. This wine is so racy and bright that it refreshes the palate! Some light skin contact gives the wine a light amber hue, almost like sherry. The nose is like toasted peanuts on a soft-served vanilla cone. The palate is rich with flavors of almond cookies and mandarin oranges.