29 members of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society take a closer look at top white wines from the Minho
Vinho Verde is not what it used to be. It is no longer the thin, acidic, low alcohol white bottled three months or so after the vintage for consumption almost immediately. Single varietal wines were not common and little or no attention was paid to matching grape to terroir. Wine making at best was simple. Things have changed. Single varietal wines from Loureiro and Alvarinho are now common, winemaking has become sophisticated with temperature controlled fermentation, skin contact and oak ageing. Visionaries like Anselmo Mendes and Luis Cerdera of Soalheiro are elevation the once humble Vinho Verde to new heights and making it one of Portugal’s top crisp and fruit driven whites.
Vinho Verde is pronounced veeng-yo vaird. It does not mean ‘green’ wine. ‘Verde’ refers to it being a young wine; the wines are released 3-6 months after harvest. The Vinho Verde region – Portugal’s northernmost wine producing region, has produced wine for over 2,000 years, making it one of the oldest wine regions in Portugal. It iis Portugal’s largest wine region, with 19,000 grape growers farming over 51,000 acres of vineyards. 600 wine bottlers produce approximately 85 million litres of Vinho Verde each year, of which 86% is white wine. The region also produces smaller amounts of red, rosé and sparkling wine as well as brandy. White varietals you need to remember are Alvarinho and Loureiro.
Marimar Estate Don Miguel Albarino 2013 from the Russian River Valley was served on arrival. This is a fuller, mineral and less aromatic example of the varietal with its characteristic bitter Finnish. The grapes undergwent ‘gentle’ whole-cluster pressing and fermentation followed by the malolactic. Duration of skin contact is not made clear. It is highly overpriced at £20.40 a bottle and to me, is not an appealing wine. (13.5)
1. Cazas Novas Avesso Vinho Verde 2015: Cazas Novas is a 25 ha estate in the Baião sub-region of Vinho Verde on the Douro River This is a fuller-bodied, semi-aromatic style of Vinho Verde, with peachy flavour and without obvious spritz. (14.5)
2. Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2015: While many vinho verdes are cheap and cheerful for a summer’s day, this blend of 95% loureiro and 5% arinto is a cut above. While restrained on the nose, it offers white floral aromas and lemony intensity. More concentrated than your average style, but keeps the signature identity: a clean finish and a hint of spritz. (14.5)
3. Docil 2015, Dirk Niepoort: A pristine and fragrant dry white made by Luis Cerdera of Quinta do Soalheiro for Douro producer Dirk Niepoort from the aromatic loureiro grape. As all Vinho Verde it has not undergone the malolactic.(15.5)
4. Adegas de Moncao Vinho Verde 2015: This single-varietal alvarinho has ripe stone-fruit flavours balanced by refreshing acidity. (14.5)
5. Muros Antigos 2013, Anselmo Mendes: Classic Loureiro with a floral nose. (16)
6. Contacto Alvarinho 2015, Anselmo Mendes: This offers a fine balance between lime-and-apricot fruit flavours and mineral finesse. Grapes were de-stemmed and had a short period of skin contact. The wine was aged on lees for four months. (16.5)
7. Soalheiro Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2015: A fresh and refined alvarinho from one of the best and most experienced producers of the grape. (16.5)
8. Curtimenta 2012, Anselmo Mendes: Alvarinho, skin macerated followed by fermentation on skins in used, 400-litre barrels and aged in barrel for 9 months on fine lees.(17)
9. Quinta de Soalheiro Reserva 2013: Rarely seen in the UK, the exquisite Soalheiro Reserva is fermented in barrel and aged, in a combination of new and older oak casks. Beautifully textured, lithe with great freshness on the palate. (17)
The tasting was followed by a two course supper – Pork tenderloin with rosemary and brandy cream sauce followed by Apple crumble and cream – prepared by Adam Vear of the Masonic Hall. A 2014 Georgian Saperavi from Vinoterra in Kakheti was poured with supper.
- “Another eye opening and immaculately well researched and presented tasting Bernard. Must confess that I was very much in the camp of ‘I don’t drink Vinho Verde because they are thin prickly wines of no distinction@. I don’t take that view anymore. True education!” – Robert Buckley, Leeds, 11 October 2016
- “Well that was such a professional lecture you gave us on Thursday Bernard. We all learned such a lot. My knowledge of vino verde was nil, so now I can talk about the subject with some confidence. It was interesting how the different regions and terroire changed the wine so dramatically. Some harsh and others softer.
You must spend an awful lot of time researching all the various wines just to give us such a comprehensive tasting. We are most grateful for all you do.” – Ann & Charles Joslin, Harrogate, 8th October 2016
- “Once again, thank you for Thursday’s Vinho Verde tasting. I knew nothing about these wines so the evening was a real learning experience for me, very much aided and enhanced by the clear way that you break down, in your presentation, the various elements, origins and properties which come together to create these, for me, quite unique wines.” – Gail Bent, Harrogate, 8 October 2016
- “Thank you for such an informative evening. Super wine, super food. I particularly liked the Alvarinhos.” – Jane Trewhella, Otley, 7 October
- “Great evening last night. The wines tasted great even though it was a cold October night.” – Ian Bexon, Harrogate, 7 October 2016
- “We greatly enjoyed the Vinho Verde tasting last night. Several were tasted on site during our recent tour and the others were welcome new finds. As you described so well, the new wave of wines from this area have greatly improved and are so well priced. The wines made by Anselmo Mendes and Soalheiro stand out, although all 10 and the two extras were worthy wines. A great evening to start the 26th year of the Society. Many thanks. Take care on your trip to Madeira to enjoy great wines and great comfort.” – Dr. Stephen Cameron, Pick Hill, 7 October 2016
- “Thank you for a very interesting and exceedingly informative evening with some superb wines the only think missing was some warm Portuguese sun and blue skies. We much preferred the Alvarinho grape compared to the Loureiro and our favourite was Quinta de Soalheiro Reserva 2013. A superb meal accompanied by the interesting and extremely palatable Saperavi 2014 . Thank you Bernard for sharing your immense knowledge and enthusiasm with us.” – Pat & John Shore, Harrogate, 7 October 2016