Discovering Portugal’s Vinho Verde, visiting Soalheiro vineyards

Sep 10, 14 Discovering Portugal’s Vinho Verde, visiting Soalheiro vineyards

Posted by in All, Portugal, Sparkling Wine

The last days of summer are upon us but that doesn’t mean you have to automatically switch to red wine. As they say, it’s ok to drink white after Labor Day (well, that’s what they say in the States).  Earlier this summer I visited the Vinho Verde region in the north east of Portugal where they make great wines, and not just for summer. Vinho Verde can be a bit confusing because it is not only the name of the grape and  one of the styles made, but is also the region. Most consumers think of Vinho Verde as a light easy drinking wine that is meant to be drunk young. As an added bonus, it’s also low alcohol, averaging between (9% – 11% alc).While that is all true, there is a lot more to it then just that. For example, Vinho Verde not only pertains to young white wine but also to rose and red wine. Vinho Verde can also be sparkling or distilled. Our trip focused on the whites of the region. The main grapes used for the white wines are alvarinho, arinto, loureiro, trajadura, azal and avesso. All of these are indigenous varieties of Portugal and produce light wines with acidity but also with body. A very nice combination on the palate. Throughout the trip, we tasted not only the still white wines but also the sparkling wines of the region, which are less well known but equally as good. One of the sparkling wine producers we met was Luiz Cerdeira, son of the founder of Soalheiro. They are located in the northern most part of Portugal, in Melgaço and specialize in alvarinho. They produce both still and sparkling wines. Sitting on the balcony of the winery overlooking the vines with the border with Spain just at the bottom of the hill was a delightful experience. We sipped their Brut Rose as well as the sparkling alvarinho. I think those sparklers could easily compete on an international scale. They had great acidity,...

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Wines of Portugal -whites – London tasting

I’ve finally discovered Portuguese wines and what a find!! Forget all those outdated images of sickly sweet Mateus or thin and watery whites, the stuff coming out of Portugal now is the real deal. Being in the trade and poorly paid, I’m always on the lookout for trade tastings. One of our biggest sellers at the moment is a Portuguese red, Quinta de Bons Ventos. It’s a light, easy going red. I thought, if this is the tip of the iceberg, I should get on down to Lord’s  Cricket Ground and check’em out. I think one of the hardest things about Portuguese wines is just learning to pronounce the names of the grapes. When the Portuguese say them, the words just roll off their tongues. When I try and say them it’s as if the sounds are in a mad, incomprehensible stampede to get out of my mouth. Forget about trying to learn French pronunciation, I need to practice my Portuguese. On to the wines. There were so many but here are the ones that stood out for me. The first wine we tried was an Alvarinho, Via Latina 2006. It’s from the Vinho Verde DOC. I had no idea that vinho verde was a DOC (obviously I didn’t pay much attention to Portugal when I was studying for the WSET Advanced), I thought it only meant young wine in Portuguese. This particular example was fresh and zippy with plenty of apple and peach on the nose and palater with a nice bit of citrus at the end. In fact, most of the whites were in this similar vein. One Alvarinho that was a bit different was made by producer, Quinta de Melgaco, Castrus de Melgaco, 2006. 100% Alvarinho but matured in oak for 2 months. “Two times used oak,” as the producer so helpfully informed us. The oak was not overpowering but gave a very subtle hint of spiciness on the nose, with vanilla and baked apple on the palate. A fab wine...

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