If you haven’t experienced the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula in Portugal or Spain or their wines, the red grape variety Souzao may be new to you. If you have an affliction for French red wines from Bordeaux (especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) as penultimate reflections of red wine characteristics, Souzao may also be not on your radar. But, the good news is that we have a Texas hill country winery, Texas Heritage Vineyards near Fredericksburg, Texas bringing a taste of Iberia directly to you. It’s literally as close your wine glass.
The wine that I’m talking about here is the Billy and Susan Johnson’s Texas Heritage Vineyard, 2018 Souzao, Paka Vineyard, Texas High Plains, and it comes with some high accolades: Double Gold Medal Winner – 2021 San Francisco Chronicle and Gold Medal Winner – 2021 San Antonio Rodeo Wine Competition. Thanks to Texas Heritage Vineyard and this 2018 Souzao, we can all experience the wine style of Iberia’s Atlantic Coast grown right here on the Texas High Plains with these grapes coming from Paka Family Vineyard in Brownfield, Texas, owned by Renuka, Kumar, Chandhu and Pavan Paka.
To highlight a bit of history, the name Souzão was once widely used in Portugal, sometimes interchangeably with the name Vinhão, for a variety of red grape found in Portugal and Spanish Galicia. For this reason, the name has been changed to Sezão and formally registered in Portugal. But, in other parts of the world that grow this grape like Australia, South Africa, California and now Texas, the name Souzao persists. The reputation of Souzao is a grape that produced intense color and high harvest sugar content and found use in making Port wines, but now even in Iberia, it is more commonly used as a dry red table wine variety. On my trip to the region back in 2005, I was blown away by the deep color, wonderful ripe berry flavors, tannic grip and ageability of wines made from Souzao and Touriga Nacional.
Texas Heritage Vineyard’s 2018 Souzao delivers on all of the great attributes my mind can remember about my wine tasting experience in Portugal from the get-go: Opaque, black-purple color in the glass that offers up macerated blueberry preserves (all juicy and jammy) followed by high-cacao, bitter-sweet chocolate, and a bit of white pepper on the finish, all held together with a fine tannic grip.
If you are looking for and Iberian wine-food pairing experience with this wine, I suggest hearty, rice-based meals that are cheap to put together and are filling. These types of dishes can include paella from Spain or Arroz de pato from Portugal. With both countries, bean and tomato-based soups and stews are very common, ham and sausages of many types, as are seafood dishes since seafood is in abundance in the region. Click here for more ideas.
If you can’t find the time or budget to make the Portugal trip right now, a visit to Texas Heritage Vineyard or a visit and purchase from their online wine store is highly recommended (click here). You can join the owner and winemaker as they take you on a 100% Texas wine making experience (see website for pricing; phone for availability) or come taste in their tasting room with hours daily. Texas Heritage Vineyard, 3245 US Hwy 290 E, Fredericksburg, TX 78624, (830) 992-3323 (see website for more information).