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First taste: Quinta de Paços Casa do Capitão-Mor 2015 Alvarinhos

It is some time since I visited Quinta de Paços – 2009 – but I have regularly tasted this family-owned estate’s Vinho Verde/Minho wines over the years.  Back then, the use of skin contact, lees and batonnage was not so common in Vinho Verde.  As I recall, they even made a wine which saw oak.  These techniques (and the quality of the fruit) gave the wines an unusual complexity, structure, intensity and mouthfeel.  

The family makes several cuvées, all dry, all gastronomic.  Unsurprising when you consider that they own five estates in the municipality of Barcelos (Quinta de Paços, Prazo da Cotovia, Morgadio do Perdigão, Quinta de Vila Meã and Morgadio de Real) and one in the municipality of Monção (Quinta da Boavista).

Casa do Capitão-Mor Alvarinhos, especially the Reserva, have always impressed.  They are sourced exclusively from Quinta da Boavista, a 13th century estate which, the back label boasts, won awards at the Exhibition of Portuguese Wines in Berlin in 1888.

Perhaps because ‘Boavista’ is famously associated with a Douro estate/Port, Quinta de Paços’ the wines from here are labelled Capitão-Mor (governor) after a previous owner – the governor of Monção.  They certainly show off the suitability of the former governor’s fiefdom for the grape which has made it famous among wine lovers.

Located less than a kilometre from the river Minho at around 60m, Boavista’s pebble-strewn soil is both granitic and calcareous (you can see the pebbles on the Reserva’s label).

Here are my notes on the latest releases from the excellent 2015 vintage, which are imported into the UK by Casa Leal:

Quinta de Paços Casa do Capitão-Mor 2015 (Monção e Melgaço Vinho Verde)

Very pale yellow with green glints.   Fifty percent of the grapes for this cool fermented Alvarinho undergo 5 hours skin contact.  The wine was aged on fine lees with batonnage until bottling. An apricot close to the stone nose and palate has attractive bite, a touch of lemon sherbert and subtle green mango/pineapple.  Despite the alcohol, it is fine – really quite slinky in the mouth (nice use of lees) – with a long, salty, mineral, finish. Just as vibrant and structured on day two.  13.5%

Quinta de Paços Casa do Capitão-Mor  Reserva 2015 (Monção e Melgaço Vinho Verde)

As the name suggests, this 100% Alvarinho comes from the same site as the previous wine, but is a notch up in quality.  It is more structured, mineral and restrained.  Why? Because this, my favourite from Quita de Paços’ range, comes from the oldest vines and sees 100% skin contact for five hours.  It was aged for 6 months in bottle.   Whereas the fruit is to the fore in the previous wine, in this pale yellow Reserva, both nose and palate have an intense chiselled mineral quality – real sucking stones.  The apricot close to stone fruit is firmer, less overt, hence the greater restraint.  Very long with a marked salinity/minerality and very persistent acidity.  On day two it shows a little more amplitude, with a pithy/citrus peel spiciness, even a touch of ginger.  That marked acidity pushes out a long, saline/mineral finish, which off-sets a touch of warmth from the alcohol.  This is a powerful Alvarinho with the concentration and structure to marry well with meat dishes.  13.5 %

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