Anselmo Mendes began producing wine with Alvarinho grapes in 1998, in Monção and Melgaço in the Vinho Verde region close to the Galician border. Today he is one of the most celebrated winemakers of Portugal.
Ten of us, all members of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society, drove from Porto to Monção to taste with Anselmo Mendes last June. The drive took us through historic Braga and took under two hours.
Anselmo was waiting for us at a road junction in Monção. “I was in Porto and drove up this morning.” He said. “I want you to see one of my vineyards before we taste in Melgaco”. We drove along a narrow road and stopped in front of number 717, Avenida Central de Moreira in Monção and walked in to a large garden covered in pergola trained Alvarinho vines. An ancient, semi-derelict house with a coat of arms on one of the walls stood in one corner and an avenue of pergolas led to the main vineyard.
Anselmo talked about Alvarinho vines, soils and winemaking. Sheep were gazing in the Alvarinho vinyard and patches of corn and cabbages grew next to the vines.
Next we drove to Anselmo’s sleek, new winery to talk more about wine and winemaking in the barrel cellars. This is where he innovates – fermentation of Alvarinho in wooden casks or fermentation on skins. After the tour of the winery, Anselmo selected a case of Alvarinho for us to take home as a gift!
We drove to Anselmo’s house in Melgaco. The road runs close to the Spanish border and we could see Galicia across the Minho river. Anselmo’s wife Antonia greeted us like long lost friends and led us into their neat and cosy home over looking the orchard and the valley beyond. Instantly, we felt at home.
The table was laid for the tasting and lunch. Slowly and steadily we tasted through most of the Anselmo Mendes range. The wines, of course, were exceptional.
Anselmo produces wine from three grape varieties in three regions of the Vinho Verde Demarcated Region: Alvarinho in the Minho Valley, Loureiro in the Lima Valley and Avesso in the Douro Valley but his variety of choice is Alvarinho.
Then, Antonia served a fantastic, home cooked lunch. There were dry-cured hams, salads, pies, poached salmon (“I did it myself this morning” Anselmo said), wonderful Portuguese Custard Tarts, cheeses and fruit. We drank copious amounts of wine – white, red and sweet.
We walked in the garden and visited the small cellar and felt happy.
As we drove back to Porto I thought what a truly fantastic visit we have had. Anselmo and Antonia are charming, modest and very generous. It was a great privilege to spend a day with them.
We will be visiting Anselmo Mendes again in June 2016!