You had me at Merlot!

 
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Statistics from this year show that roughly less than 25% of the senior executives at Fortune 500 companies are women (source: NYT).  So it’s safe to assume that you will probably find yourself having conversations with old men at holiday parties this season. And what always ends up being a conversation topic?….wine. We have all been there – whether it’s at team outings, client dinners, or networking events, the conversation always includes weather, sports, and WINE! Side note: why is it always French wine?!

As we approach the holiday season, how can you participate in this conversation with a significantly smaller budget yet have comparable expertise? Here’s my take on it.

The answer is not to compete with French wines but instead with Spanish and Portuguese wines. I am a big advocate of wines from the Iberian peninsula not only because I lived in Spain and my husband is Portuguese, but because there are delicious, underrated and high-value wines at every price point.  According to Wine Spectator, “When it comes to high quality winemaking that delivers both diversity and value, Portugal is a triple threat.” Portugal and Spain have a distinct variety of grapes, share terroir,  relatively similar history as isolated countries ruled by dictators, and Moorish influences on wine making techniques. Exploring Iberian wine is an affordable way build real knowledge from personal experience and confidently recommend a high quality wine or two.

 
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During the next visit to your local wine shop (my personal fave - Trader Joe’s), ask someone at the store to point out wines from these specific regions or with the grape varieties listed below. You can also look for these keywords on the label yourself.

  • Regions: Rioja, Douro, Dão, Alentejo (Borba), Bierzo, Duero, Minho and Rías Baixas

  • Grape varieties: Mencía/Jaen, Albariño/Alvarinho, Touriga Nacional/Franca, Periquita

My top 3 red wines worth exploring this season have been chosen based on taste and value for price:

 

If you like an Italian Brunello or have dabbled in a little Rioja before...

1. Altano (Douro), 2013 or 2015.

Made from blended Portuguese grapes, including Touriga Franca, this wine is well-balanced and medium body with notes of blackberries, plums and vanilla. This wine is tried and tested and one of my absolute favorite reds! Would be great to bring to a holiday party or serve at dinner.

Retail price $9

Altano (Douro) $9

Altano (Douro) $9

 

If burgundy or pinot noir is your jam…

2. Bierzo "Petalos", Descendientes de José Palacios – 2015

From the Bierzo region with Mencia/Jaen grape variety, medium bodied with hints of red fruit and spicy notes.  Bring as a host gift to your boss for a work holiday party.

Retail price $19

Bierzo Petalos $19

Bierzo Petalos $19

 

If you’re into Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec...

3. Cartuxa Évora Colheita Tinto 2014

Made from blended Portuguese grapes, including Periquita, this wine is medium body with notes of spice, oak and berries. Besides pairing well with a special holiday dinner, it would make a great conversation starter as it is from a very unique wine region of Portugal called Alentejo that is seldom talked about internationally due to its Douro “older brother”.

Retail price $22

Cartuxa Evora Colheita Tinto $22

Cartuxa Evora Colheita Tinto $22

Adding a unique wine recommendation from a region typically not considered in the world of “fine wines” will not only start a conversation but make you stand out from the crowd. Saúde! Salud!


This guest post was written by our friend, Lauren. Lauren works for a large asset management company as the business manager for the Chief Risk Officer. In her spare time, you can find her pushing her love of Portuguese and Spanish wines on her friends, eating all the good eats, and sharing her love of food and wine on Instagram as @LaoBocaLoca