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Susana Esteban – latest Aventura & Procura reds

I was going to say first taste, but in fact Susana Esteban submitted them for the highly successful Decanter panel (blind) tasting of Alentejo reds at which I judged earlier this year.  It was reported in Decanter’s May edition.  

Fellow judge Joanna Locke MW and I both included Susana Esteban Aventura 2014 in our top three wines. Overall, it averaged the same score as Procura (92 points).  While this may seem surprising given Procura is the flagship red (and a good deal more expensive), in terms of drinking now, the Aventura wins hands down.

Re-tasting the Procura 6 months later, I was reminded of its formidable oak and tannin structure.  This time around – tasting it at home – it was good to eke it over over a 3 days to give the oak a chance to blow off and the fruit to come up.  But I have no doubt that, with time it will warrant the higher score and most probably, in Decanter speak, enter Gold Medal territory (95 points plus).  So I’d suggest stashing it away for at least five years and reckon it will last another five or ten years.

Returning to Aventura, Decanter asks its panel judges to select three wines from the tasting – not necessarily top scores – which stand out to them.  It’s a chance to not just be points-focused.  For example, we might recognise a wine as a 95 pointer but it’s not necessarily what we’d want to drink or what personally excites us or what we want to highlight in terms of regional developments and taking price into account.  Both Locke and I were impressed by this wine’s finely judged fruit and freshness.  As Locke put it, “no Touriga Nacional blowsiness here.”   Which is an achievement in Alentejo, one of Portugal’s warmer, drier regions. (Of course clever fruit sourcing from Alto Alentejo, specifically, Estremoz and the even more elevated, cooler Portalegre is key to Esteban’s wines’ structure and finesse).

Here are my notes on the latest release.  Click here and here for my reviews of previous vintages (including Esteban’s white wines); and here for my review of her Portalegre “Sidecar” collaboration with Dirk Niepoort.

Susana Esteban Aventura Tinto 2014 (Vinho  Regional Alentejano)

A handpicked unoaked blend of 40% Aragonês, 40% Touriga Nacional and 20% traditional (field blend) varieties of Portalegre.  Vivid, pippy red and black berry and cherry fruit with florals to the nose – the Touriga’s violet scent betrays its owner from the off.  These flavours/aromas follow through on the palate, which is weighted more towards black than red fruits, especially juicy black cherry with a touch of cherrystone.  With a pick/rub of raspberry/pomegranate seeds/pith, Aventura 2014 has nice intensity, flow and length, with a touch of saltiness to the finish.  The lack of oak makes this an elegant, very drinkable Alentejo red but, make no mistake, this is no simple red.  For an unoaked Alentejo red it is dry, structured and complex, with lovely fruit intensity and freshness.   13.5% (Tasted July 2016).

Susana Esteban Procura Tinto 2013 (Vinho  Regional Alentejano)

A handpicked blend of 55% Alicante Bouschet, the balance from a traditional mixed vineyard in Portalegre. Procura was aged for 16 months in French oak barrels, 30% new, 70% second year.  It is a very deep purple hue.  Very inky with great intensity of fruit and perfumed vanillin oak to the nose – it almost sucks you dry already!  Wow, in the mouth this is concentrated, with smoky, charry/ oily oak and a trace of clove oil to balance the sweet vanillin.  Very densely concentrated, its slick of polished black fruits – bilberry, stalky blackcurrant and juicier blackberry – feels telescoped at the moment, such is it corset of oak and tannin.  But I like the tannins.  They’re textural, with a dusty minerality.  And the fruit beneath is vibrant fruit too – as with Aventura, one senses Esteban knows precisely when to pick to maintain brightness and energy through the palate.  This wine needs a good couple of years in bottle to come around.  When I go back to it on day 2 and 3, it really comes home to me that this vintage has the biggest percentage of Alicante Bouschet yet (up from 40% in 2011, 45% in 2012 to 55% in this wine).  As well as informing this wine’s structure and dryness, it makes for a touch of savoury (tobacco) rusticity; I pick up iron and spinach on the finish  – a vegetal/mineral character if you will.  I’m looking forward to tasting this complex wine down the track when it can really strut its stuff. 14.5% (Tasted July 2016).

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