Soalheiro Vinho Verde, a visit and vertical – very VV

If you thought Vinho Verde was sweet and vapid, think again – it’s a region that is undergoing a renaissance.  Quinta de Soalheiro represent the pinnacle of winemaking excellence, though they are not without challengers.  As you will see their wines develop beautifully with age.

Like most of the top Vinho Verde’s the wines are made from 100% Alvarinho (a.k.a. Albarino in Galicia, Spain) from Monçao and Melgacos in northernmost Vinho Verde on the border with Spain.  Warmer and drier, the wines seem to encapsulate the best of Viognier (peach and apricot) and Riesling (racy acidity and, with age, petrol and toast).

Quinta de Soalheiro Alvarinho

1995 – deep golden yellow with toast, citrus and lime on the nose.  The palate is rich, ripe, and round with developed Australian Riesling-like notes of lime, lemon cordial, butter and toast.  There’s that Viognier-like voluptuousness too though – fruit salad flavours and a touch creamy in the mouth.  Good balnacing acidity in a cooler year. 12.5% abv

 2000 – a warmer vintage shows a blossom nose with apricot, I’d have guessed a Vionier if shown blind.  This shows a little more palate weight and richness too with lifted floral notes; long, limpid finish.  Very good 12.8% abv

2002 – that toast character, good freshness, floral with citrus, lime, lime blossom, some tropical hints; with good life and, lift, this is elegant, v long and persistent.

2003 – rich ripe, apricot á la Viognier, that slightly floral white pepper character with some toast showing already.  On the palate lychee fruit lends a roundness. It’s shorter than the prevoous wines but v enjoyable wine.

2006 – a herbal nose (will go toasty) with lime flower/blossom and a lovely lively palate with lithe fruit and a persistent, slightly sherbety finish.

2007 – pineapple chunks, herbal note here, tight, persistent, sour citrus in a good way, slightly creamy…very integrated, v complete in balance.

Quinta de Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas

2007 – this comes from the oldest vines which produce riper fruit.  It is fermented with natural yeasts which takes longer – in 07, some 4 months.  The idea is to create a wine which is more expressive on the palate than on the nose.  This is gorgeous, fresh and youthful but with a lovely viognier’esque fruit sweetness/ripeness, it shows sweet and sour flavours of pineapple chunks and has a great mouthfeel.  Great freshness and definition add up to a beautiful package.

Quinta de Soalheiro Reserva Alvarinho

2006 – the cream of the crop sees around 30% new oak; rich, round and ripe this has sweet tinned mandarin fruit with an underlying minerality and very good balance.

2007 – a very good vintage and it shows in the greater complexity of this wine – more aromatic with fruit salad, aniseed spice, orange peel, lychee and nuts; v complete with great balance.

Espumante Soalheiro

Lovely fruit with green and ripe apricot and a nicely integrated mousse.  A perfect match with fresh brown crabmeat on toast, a rustic amuse bouche at the very fabulous Restaurante Panorama.  It’s well worth checking out and do not be put off by its dispiriting location in a small, very 80s shopping mall – once you’re in the view is good.

 GiraSol

2007 – Dirk Niepoort of Douro fame collaborates with Soalheiro on their Primeiras Vinhas and this label is the result of their collaboration with him in Vinho Verde with the Loureiro grape variety which is the other grape known for top Vinho Verde.  It has a very pretty nose with kiwi, cucumber and floral notes, quite perfumed and a touch soapy, typical of the Loureiro variety for me, sometimes a little too granny’s drawers (as in the wooden ones with a lavender bag).  This is floaty and floral with good freshness to balance 12g/l of residual sugar.  A feather-weight 10.5% abv.

Sarah Ahmed

The Wine Detective

November 2008

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