simlesmente 2017

Simplesmente Vinho 2017 – bigger & better: 70 top tips

I was sorry to miss Simplesmente Vinho wine fair in Oporto last year.  And excited to get re-acquainted this year – especially at the new, much bigger venue at Casa do Cais Novo.  Like a cathedral to wine, this beautiful old Port wine warehouse graciously and spaciously played host to 84 producers and artists, 6 restaurants, two bands and an avid congregation of tasters.  You’ll find my highlights below.

As you can see, there were many (and watch out for upcoming posts on Vadio, Quinta dos Abibes, Quinta das Bageiras and Explicit, whom I visited before the fair).  With an emphasis on smaller players, Simplesmente Vinho is a hot wire to among the funkiest wines and producers in Portugal (check out my reports from 2014 & 2015). I use funky in the literal and metaphorical sense.  You’ll find un-sulphured and cloudy as well as the sunniest of fruit here.

Sunny Alvarinho fruit which, in the case of Quinta Edmun do Val is (7 times) distilled into Edmundo Gin by siblings Olalla and Pablo Ruibal.  So Simplesmente.  

As the art festooned walls attest, creativity is very much in the air.  With a couple of juniper berries, slither of orange peel and ice, it made for a very smooth, pure Gin. Inspired by California’s Distillery 209, they told me. 

It’s quite a marked contrast to the wine from which this Gin is distilled. Textural and complex, Quinta Edmun do Val Reserva 2011 is naturally fermented, then aged on lies with batonnage and released after 22 months in bottle. It’s a rich, tangy and powerful Alvarinho.  Valados de Melgaço Reserva Alvarinho 2015 (13%) is a new-to-me Alvarinho from Melgaço.  The label is only three years old.  But it highlights what you want to see from this grape in this sub-region – freshness and fruit, delicacy with intensity.  It has a nice purity of stone fruit with a lick of fennel.

In the Lima Sub-Region, Vasco Croft of Aphros inevitably (though this might be the only inevitable thing about this creative, deeply spiritual soul) focuses on the Loureiro grape for his whites.  He has recently released a second label, Phaunus, for wines made the old fashioned way.  That is to say fermented in lagares or amphorae by hand (so no electricity) in the original cellar under his family’s house at Casal do Paço.  As he pointed out to me last year, they are “so different in concept and taste…the label has a much more artisanal feel  in the design, and the bottles will be finished at the top with sealing wax instead of aluminium.”

Phaunus Pétillant-naturel Brut 2016 captures the Loureiro grape perfectly with its pretty, lifted nose and palate. Fresh and summery, it has a delicate touch of phenolics and a super persistent, ‘seasoning’ saline bead.  Both of which help you to hold onto, chase even, this sparkling wine’s fleet of foot ephemeral flavours – white flowers and the juices of lime, succulent melon, pear and cucumber, which gently sluice the palate.  Encouraged by it, Croft plans to use no added yeast or sugar for his classic espumante; a dash of dried grapes will provide the requisite sugar naturally.

Phaunus Loureiro Amphora 2016 was fermented on skins for one and a half months in an old 1,300l talha/amphora from Alentejo with no temperature control (the thick granite walls of the cellar keep it cool).  Croft is happier with this vintage than the first which he says absorbed some of the smokiness from when the talha’s beeswax lining was prepared.  This wine has good fruit – tangy and crisp with the spice and texture that comes from skin contact.  Rather than fresh flowers, I detect a hint of soapy florals (not so much as to be distracting, rather a reminder of the grape in hand).  It retains fresh acidity throughout, with nutty undertones to the back palate.

Probably the first rosé I admired from Portugal was Covela Palhete made by Nuno Araújo, Quinta de Covela’s previous owner who, like Croft, was a pioneer of organic and biodynamic viticulture. A palhete is an old school rosé, made by blending red and white grapes.   Phaunus Palhete 2016 (12%) is a co-fermentation in amphora of Croft’s signature grape varieties – Loureiro (80%) and Vinhão (20%).  It’s a dry, firm, serious rosé.  Not a gossip, rather prone to intense conversation.  A pick of spicy, coltsfoot tannin informs the whole and, with fruit (impressions of cranberry) very much on the cusp of ripeness, this wine’s firm acidity also puts the emphasis on structure.  I liked it very much.  Aphros/Phaunus wines are imported into the UK by Les Caves de Pyrene and I notice that Taberna do Mercado list that lovely Pet Nat.

Quinta de Covela

Alr Loureiro 2015 (Vinho Verde) is an altogether more delicate affair given both grape and wine style.  At a featherweight 9% abv it has 9g/l residual sugar which is finely balanced by this wine’s well focused acidity.  A sorbet of a wine – a great palate cleanser – with crisp, icing sugar dusted green apple and citrus notes.  Lovely.  It is made by Casa do Mouraz, who are imported into the UK by Raymond Reynolds.  Moving south and east to the sub-region of Baião, on the right bank of the Douro river, Quinta de Covela Edição Nacional Avesso 2015 (Vinho Verde) was in fine form, with good grip, structure and energy to its crunchy, applely fruit.  I’m glad to hear that these wines are now being imported by Portal Wines & Spirits.

Francisco Figueiredo (a.k.a. Xico Ramisco) of Adega Regional de Colares

It was fantastic to see two Colares’ stalwarts at the fair – Francisco Figueiredo (a.k.a. Xico Ramisco) of Adega Regional de Colares and José Baeta of Adega Viúva Gomes.  This historic, now tiny, idiosyncratic region – the home of un-grafted Ramisco vines and its very own Malvasia de Colares – seems to be finding its way back into the headlines having all but succumbed to Lisbon’s suburban sprawl.  Chatting with Baeta, he agreed that wines are cleaner these days thanks to a reduction in the use of whole bunch and fermenting wines in stainless steel with temperature control (as opposed to in toneis).

José Baeta of Adega Viúva Gomes

Both producers are now represented in the UK.  Adega Colares by long time importer Clarke Foyster, while Viúva Gomes has recently been listed by Portal Wines & SpiritsAdega Colares Malvasia de Colares 2014 is fresh and saline with oyster shell minerality and a lemon juice-sluiced long, persistent finish. Viúva Gomes Ramisco 2008 is firm, chalky and bright with assertive acidity and chalky tannins but ripe fruit. Adega Colares Ramsico 2007 is fruitier, yet still firm with chalky fine tannins.  Viúva Gomes Ramsico 1969 is stemmy but firm and bright, with very clean, chalky mineral acidity and subtly smoky/iodine-like minerals.  It was bottled in 1974/75.

Vitor Claro

Since I last tasted with chef/wine writer Vitor Claro he has some all-new wines to show, adding Beira Interior, Setubal and Lisboa wines to Dominó, his Portalegre label.  My pick of the bunch was Las Vedras 2016 from Lisboa.  Old field blend vines make for a pretty, translucent, sapid red with red fruits, violets and a light pick of tannin.  Fresh and very drinkable.

Inspired by Sicily’s Marco de Bartoli’s Integer Zibbibo, Claro’s Setubal wine is a dry Moscatel sourced from a Jose Maria Fonseca vineyard on calcareous soils in Azeitão. With skin contact, it’s a dry, textural wine with stone fruit and plenty of grapey, spicy flavours and aromas.  Meanwhile, Dominó Salão Frio 2014 is firm, tight and austere – very mineral.  Needs time, but it looks very promising indeed. Dominó wines are imported into the UK by Indigo Wines.

Óbidos in Lisboa is home to Quinta do Paço’s Humus label.  Rodrigo Filipe makes minimalist intervention wines from organic fruit from his family’s 5 hectare estate.  Though fresh and mineral, I found the Fernao Pires Arinto Vital blend a tad too nutty for me.  But I liked Humus Castelão 2015 very much.  Though just bottled, it had lovely cherry/cherry-stone fruit with a bit of bite, sappy freshness and chalky tannins.  The wines are imported into the UK by Mondino Wines.

Antonio Madeira’s elegant, mineral red from the Serra d’Estrela sub-region in the Dão was one of my finds of the 2014 fair.  He has been steadily adding fresh wines and his barrel (the stand) sported a crescent of wines.  A sulphur free white from 2016 from a 50 year old vineyard had a limpid, saline palate with pronounced minerality and subtle vegetality – a touch of fennel, pastis even.   A clean cut of assertive acidity makes for great persistence and nice purity.  The regular 2015 white is sourced from 50-120 year old vines and over 20 native grapes.  Much as I liked its delicacy, I prefer this wine to the previous vintage.  Going through the malo makes for a more laid back wine than its tightly wound predecessor.  And more enjoyment on the journey.  Lithe, mineral with good structure and even a little sensuality.

A new entry point red, Antonio Madeira Tinto 2014, is fresh, intense and saltily mineral with engaging crunchy red and black fruits supported by lightly pithy tannins. Great joie de vivre.  Going up the quality ladder, Antonio Madeira Vinhas Velhas Tinto 2014 has more pronounced minerality, succulent cinnamon-licked black cherry fruit and brighter, tighter cherry-stone bite.  Fine but firm tannins reinforce its sense of precision.  Very good.  Top cuvée Antonio Madeira A Centenária Tinto 2014 comes from 130 year old vines.  It’s fleshier, with tangy, yoghurty wild and scented fruits of the forest wed to a lively backbone of acidity.  Lovely firmness and levity.  Tapering, intense and elegant.

Luis Lopes of Alvaro Castro

Leading Dão/Serra d’Estrela player Alvaro Castro is playing around with un-sulphured wines too.  Luis Lopes shared with me a bit of background to his first, nail-biting experiment with the genre in 2015.  The candid winemaker admitted that he’d started off with 1,000 litres of Encruzado – Quinta da Pellada’s best – but was scared to experiment with such a large amount of wine.  So he diverted 500 litres to the normal wine and split the remaining un-sulphured 500 litres, bottling half without fining and filtration and filtering the other.  Filtering was about playing safe, but it would seem that, ironically, it resulted in greater exposure to oxygen.  The filtered example had a dominating steal-across-the palate pronounced smoky, nutty (almost Islay whisky-like) character which I find very unappealing in un-sulphured/low sulphur whites.  In stark contrast, the unfiltered version had terrific purity.  With pebble in the pond ripples of minerals, it was very limpid, with fresh, crisp apple fruit.  (Both versions were fermented and aged in stainless steel).  The trial encouraged Castro to completely forego adding enzymes or inoculated yeasts to ferments at Pellada in 2016, also to reduce sulphur levels. Bottling later means that wines are spending longer on the lees (in tank).  As for the conventional Quinta da Pellada Encruzado 2015, it is very crystalline and pretty with glistening mica crystals and dancing lemon and lime acidity going through.    Once again I find a touch of fennel/pastis.  Alvaro Castro wines are imported into the UK by Indigo Wines.

I was welcomed to Oporto with a glass of Terras de Tavares Rufia! White 2015 (Dão), which made a fine companion for Bacalhau à Brás on a sunny day on the Ribeiro with the scent of the Atlantic in the air.  Rufia! Tinto 2012 was one of my finds of Simplesmente Vinho 2014; Rufia! White 2015 is João Tavares de Pina’s first white Rufia! (It is un-oaked and made with no racking or sulphur additions until bottling and minimal sulphur on bottling)  The 2015 white had brisk, salty, mineral intensity which animated a powerful palate with sensations of dried stone fruit (apricot), straw and nuts.  Lovely freshness going through.   Tavares de Pina is even happier with Terras dos Tavares Rufia! White 2016.  Like the 2015, it has great palate presence – a density which is uncommon in many of the un-sulphured/low sulphured wines I have tried from Portugal.  Very salty, concentrated, textural and nutty going through.  Great mouthfeel and minerality.  It is made (like all Tavares de Pina’s wines) from his elevated 500-550m vineyard at Quinta da Boavista in Penelva do Castello on granite, schist and clay soils.  The whites are a blend of 20% old field blend fruit and roughly equal proportions of Encruzado, Bical, Cercial, Malvasia and Arinto.

Tavares de Pina has been playing around with orange wine too.  The 2016 spent one week on skins before being pressed and completing fermentation in a 500l barrel; it was un-sulphured.  It’s a pinky orange hue (it includes the rose tinted Malvasia Gris).  Sweet and nutty on entry with a juicy mid-palate with exotic mandarin nuances and a salty streak.  Interesting stuff.  I’d like to see how it develops in bottle.

Tavares de Pina showed me a mini-vertical of Rufia! Red which sells out en primeur – pretty impressive for a low sulphur, low extract, low oak red!  Terras de Tavares Rufia! Red 2016 is very fresh, initially with a hint of spritzy C02 to its fresh berry fruits.  Young.  It is a blend of Jaen, Touriga Nacional and Rufete with 25% old field blend fruit, which is co-fermented in open stainless steel lagares without temperature control and with a submerged cap to extract flavour  It is aged in stainless steel tank for 9 months on primary lees then goes to old (+10 year old) barrels after the malo.  Terras de Tavares Rufia! Red 2015  has more tactile, lightly mouth-coating tannins with a core of fresh, mineral red and black fruits.  Terras de Tavares Rufia! Red 2014 is quite different – fresh and juicy, with firm red fruits – lovely definition.  Very good.  The wines are imported into the UK by Mondino Wines.

I’m thrilled that David Knott at The Knotted Vine followed up on my tip to check out the wines of Nuno O and João Soares (V puro).  I’m a big fan of Druida white in particular and Druida Encruzado 2015 was in cracking form.  It has terrific limey acid drive, which spears the leesy nutty palate, making for a piercing finish. Very light on its feet but with lovely texture.  Perfect balance.   It was received exceptionally well by trade and consumers at a Knotted Vine dinner on Tuesday to show off the new wines.

Vidente 2014 is a new-to-me unoaked, lagares-fermented red from an old Dão vineyard at 500m.  It’s lip-smackingly fresh with pithy pomegranate and pretty redcurrant and cherry mineral-sluiced fruit.  Long, elegant and very food friendly.

João Soares

From Bairrada, Alias White from a 120 year old field blend mostly planted to red grapes (they micro-harvest the whites) is fearsomely tight and austere with lemon pip sharpness (and early picked at 10.5% abv), minerals and notes of moss/earth- it cried out for food.  A wish which was duly granted at the Knotted Vine dinner where it worked well with whipped salt cod on toast, black olives and cornichons.

Back in London for a second bite at the cherry – The Knotted Vine dinner at Beagle

Doravante Bairrada Tinto 2015 (vineyard planted 1992) is a firm, crunchy, mineral blend of Baga with pithy tannins and fleshier, plummy Touriga Nacional to the mid-palate.  It has a touch of Touriga chocolate to the finish, though the Baga maintains the line.  It’s quite a contrast with the baby Baga, Alias Baga 2015 which comes from the same 120 year old vineyard as the white of that name.  Though Soares describes it as the elegant side of Outrora (it was aged for 12 months in used oak barrels) , it’s a firm, very tight Baga with the classic smoky minerality of Baga on chalky clay soil and, curiously a lemony quality to the acidity.  I found it a little impenetrable at the moment – like the white, one to review with bottle age or over dinner.  As with Alias, Outrora Classico 2012 sees some whole bunch ferment but undergoes longer skin contact.  It is aged in 50% new French oak barrels for 24 months.  It is a strapping wine with plentiful, firm but fine tannins, gutsy dark berry and currant fruit and, as it opens up, a delicious core of pure, bright cherry.  Toast and roasted fat chesnuts add savoury interest.  The mineral-sluiced, smoky, chalky finish puts a firm Bairrada/Baga stamp on it.  An imposing style.

François Chasans

I spent a memorable morning with François Chasans in Bairrada when I was writing a feature about Baga Friends for The World of Fine Wine.  The Parisian caviste, whose wife is Portuguese, had a very strong vision of what he wanted to achieve when he established Quinta da Vacariça.  As you might expect (from the geological map in the picture), terroir is at the heart of it, so soil studies informed where he bought a vineyard (the Cardosa vineyard in Tamengos).  But I cannot put it any better than the man himself, who extols “cultivating the difference, in the pursuit of excellence.”

He makes imposing, well structured Bagas and it was great to catch up over a vertical and meet his daughter and son-in-law, who are setting up a restaurant in Portugal.   The wines are becoming increasingly elegant – a little more fluid, with greater emphasis on the acidity, not the tannin.   Quinta da Vacariça Baga 2012 is firm and mineral with wild, perfumed black fruits with floral nuances, chalky, fresh acidity and a fine charge of motile ‘wet cement’ tannins – a brilliant description an Australian winemaker gave to Nebbiolo/Barolo tannins.  Very good.  Quinta da Vacariça Baga Garrafeira 2014 has great palate presence, intensity and freshness, with some sappy green notes (attractive) playing around the edges.  An impressive feat for this difficult, wet year.  Reflecting this powerful vintage, Quinta da Vacariça Baga Terroir de Cardosa Tonel 23 Garrafeira 2011 has brooding black fruit and sculpted, imposing tannins – cool and chiselled, with a real sense of dry extract. Indeed a little chewy through the finish.  Seemingly channelling the blue schist soils to maximum effect, the 2011 is firm and strikingly mineral.  This together with this wine’s ever-present acidity – a pulse – brings finesse and great length.   Quinta da Vacariça Baga Terroir de Cardosa Garrafeira 2008 reveals the smoky minerality so often associated with this grape in this region.  Less typical is the spicy, perfumed Sichuan pepper which accompanies its taut, polished black fruit to nose and palate.  The tannins are powdery, but very firm, with grip.  A little unresolved still.

One of the very few Portuguese regions I’ve yet to visit is Trás-os-Montes, just north of the Douro.  Although it has more vineyards than any other region, elevation and great soils (mostly schist and granite), I’ve struggled to find wines that have excited me save for Valle Pradinhos’ whites and entry level red.  So I was pleased to discover Quinta de Arcossó’s whites (which I much preferred to the reds – with good use of Alvarinho, they had much more definition and brightness to the fruit).

Quinta de Arcossó Reserva 2015 is a naturally fermented blend of Alvarinho, Cercial, Codega and Arinto from Amílcar Salgado’s vineyard at 400m on granite soils.  It was fermented and aged in a mix of old oak and stainless steel which produce clean, aromatic fruit (especially well-defined apricot from the Alvarinho) and some leesy texture.  Well done.  Modern but with a bit of character and nice structure too.  Quinta de Arcossó Grande Reserva 2015 is a 60:40 blend of Arinto and Alvarinho which spent 12 months in used barrels.  It’s a powerful white – well structured, tensile even, with good acid drive, great persistence and a salty edge to its apricot and citrus fruit.  Well done.  The wines are sold in the UK by Alfama Wines.

There was a strong rump of Douro wines at Simplesmente Vinho this year.  What was exciting was to see so much innovation in this well established category and, most of all, an impressive emphasis on freshness.  Even with Port where Rita Marques of Conceito  (the Douro) and Ricardo Diogo of Barbeito (Madeira) have been getting into the spirit of things with these new entry level examples Conceito by Barbeito Ruby and Conceito by Barbeito White Port.  The Ruby is a well made example of the genre (bright fruited), but it’s the White Port that grabbed my attention.   As you might expect, Diogo has put the emphasis on vibrancy.  Early-picked old vine field blend fruit (from the 2014 vintage) was fermented in stainless steel and bottled after a couple of years to maintain fruit and freshness.  It is strikingly thus with green almond overtones to its stone fruit and a delicate sweetness.  Bright, very refreshing, without losing a sense of old vine concentration and density.

Also new is Conceito Unico 2015, a flagship white from her best old field blend vineyards.  Producers are increasingly shifting away from new oak and it’s good to see that Marques has not succumbed to it for this impressive top tier wine.  It has richness and body enough, though it weighs in at 13%.   With a marked saltiness, persistent, pebbly acidity and a streak of lime, it has a long, very well balanced finish.  A very complete wine already.  An old favourite also showed well – Conceito Bastardo 2016 is light and peppery with a pick of tannin to its crunchy red cherry and cranberry fruit.  It was picked in the first week in September.  Conceito Wines are imported into the UK by Raymond Reynolds.

I was pleased to catch up with Tiago Saimpo having been blown away by ‘Uivo Renegado 2015.   Ironically, I tasted this elegant Douro vin de soif red with old vine intensity and minerality when I was in Australia.  In some respects, it’s not surprising that Saimpo would make a wine like this.  He makes Pinot Noir and his vineyards are at 500m with granite soils.

Before I tasted the latest vintage Saimpo, introduced me to his Pétillant-naturel (Pet Nat) sparkling wines.  A sample of the 2016 (a blend of Alvarinho, Moscatel & Rabigato) was super fresh and fruity with crunchy apple and cusp of ripeness apricot (representing 50% of the blend, the Alvarinho currently drives it).  The Pinot Noir Pet Nat was made at the behest of a New York sommelier.  It’s very pure, with delicate, sappy red fruits.  Saimpo is pleased with the tension in his early picked 2016s (it was a hot, dry year).

Varietal Pinot Noir, Moscatel Galego (dry), Rabigato and Alvarinho wines show similar fruit purity and freshness.  Naturally, the old vine blends – white & red – have more complexity and structure.  But they share the freshness and levity of the single varietal wines.  The follow up vintage – ‘Uivo Renegado Red 2016 comes from a field blend vineyard which is 50:50 red and white, hence its paleness.  It has a little more fruit weight than the ’15, lovely florals and like minerality, if super saline in this vintage.

When I last met Álvaro Martinho Lopes last year I made a mental note to seek out the Real Companhia Velha (RCV) viticulturist’s own Mafarrico brand.  He has a very original way of expressing his take on the Douro’s terroir. Anyway, I promptly forgot to hunt out his wine.  So it was good to see him at the fair.  Having a rather full-time job juggling RCV’s 540ha of vineyard, Lopes makes no more than 15, 000 bottles.  All made with grapes sourced from his own vineyards in Baixo Corgo, in the village of Cumeira.

Mafarrico Red 2014 (13%) is a little rustic in a good way, with peppery lift to its pale red fruits -pomegranate and cherry – and pithy tannins.    Maquia Red 2013 was made with Dirk Niepoort from a blend of “softer” varieties – Tinta Barocca, Tinta Barca, Tinta Roriz.  It’s fleshier with a creamy, velvety quality to its dark berry and plum fruit and well integrated, juicy acidity to keep those soft fruits rolling.

Yet to be labelled and likely to be called My Song 2015 (verses pictured on the temporary label), the top wine is a blend of 50:50 old 85 year old field blend and block planted fruit, the latter split between Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca (planted by Lopes in 2011).  2015 is the first release (Lopes only acquired the old vines from his neighbour in 2014).  It is made with consultancy from Jorge Moreira and reflects Moreira’s signature (Poeira) precise, fresh, well-structured style.  It’s very good – chockful of minerals – a palpable sene of dry extract –  intensely perfumed red fruits and fresh blackcurrant.  Lovely concentration but elegant.

Mafarrico White 2015 features a variety Lopes tells me is held in contempt.  Not that you’d guess that from the name- Malvasia Rei (Rei means king).  But it’s king on account of its prodigiousness, so not associated with quality,  But with his old vines, low yielding adds a perception of freshness – a bitterness to the palate which Lopes likes.  It’s a round very un-pushed white, with soft appley fruit and some Moscatel-like spice and lift (so that bitterness is indeed a useful trait).

Wine Drops Somnium (meaning dream) is the own brand of two winemakers – Joana Pinhão (whom I know from Quinta Vale Dona Maria and Van Zellers & Co.) and Rui Freire (Herdade da Malhadinha Nova/Casca Wines).  Van Zellers makes some very accomplished Douro whites so perhaps it’s no surprise that the pair, who first made wine together in 2011, initially focused on one white.  Or that it’s from a true hot spot for whites (cool in fact, of course) – Porrais. The elevated vineyard is planted to 70 year old field blends, with Rabigato and Códega of Larinho predominating.

Two vintages, both in magnums, were shown.  The 2013 would appear to have been the victim of pre-ox – it was a bit tired.  So I was really glad of the other vintage.  Wine Drops Somnium White 2014 (magnum) jangles with lemon and lime energy. It’s tighty coiled, well-focused, long and mineral.  Very good.   Wine Drops Somnium Red 2014 (magnum) is the pair’s first red and I liked it very much indeed.  It’s also made from old field blend vines with a high percentage of Touriga Franca.  It’s elegant and peppery on the nose with ripe but bright, well defined black berry, smaller currant fruit and lovely floral lift.  Ripe fruit but fresh acidity makes for a very drinkable Douro red.  Really good.

Luis Seabra had new wines to show too – Xisto Limitado and Alyo Indie, both from 2014.  I preferred the original cuvées.  Granito Cru Alvarinho 2015 has plenty of texture and richness, with sweet, nutty lees and apricot fruit.  Delivery is slow and involving, with good mouthfeel and the acidity gently to tease out a long finish. Xisto Cru Douro Branco 2015 from Meda in the Douro Superior at 700m is tight, mineral and long with a flinty/cordite zing, cheesy, leesy bite and a burst of florals and lime juice on a very persistent finish.  Though firm, tight and mineral, Xisto Cru Red 2014 has density as well as freshness.  Promising.

I’ve always been a fan of Quinta de Maritávora‘s white wines, which reveal the deft touch of consultant winemaker Jorge Serodio Borges (Wine & Soul/Quinta do Passadouro). Maritávora Colheita 2014 may be sourced from young vines (Codega, Rabigato & Viosinho) but said young vines are propagated from owner Manuel Gomes Mota’s extremely aged (c. 120 year old) vines (which are inter-planted with even more aged olive trees, pictured).   Which means this wine shares the pronounced salty bite/minerality of its olders and betters in the range.  Being unoaked allows its freshness and minerality to shine; Mota told me he is reeling back on the oak in the top wines, preferring lees contact to impart volume.  While they have the concentration and structure to take it, I think later releases will be better for it.  Oak is not unique, unlike this estates’ vines and terroir.   That’s what I like to see best.

Maritávora Reserva White 2013 features mostly new oak.  It’s flinty, with smoky oak and that salty minerality which accentuates the wine’s freshness.  Good structure and minerality.   In 2010, Mota introduced a flagship Grande Reserva label for the wines which had been labelled Reserva between 2004 and 2009, Maritávora Reserva 2009 as then was took me back to the vertical tasting I enjoyed with Mota when I visited the estate in 2012 (reported here).  Because it still puts me in mind of mature Hunter Valley Semillon with its beeswax, oilskin and lemon and grapefruit pithy palate.  Very well structured, long and mineral.  Salty, yes.  Very good.

Fellow writer Pedro Garcia has released his first rosé.  Mapa Rosé 2016 comes from a vineyard in Favaois, Alijó at 600m – Quinta de S. Bento – which he acquired in 2015.  It’s pale, dry, a little savoury (cheesy/leesy) and mineral with a delicate sweetness and greeness both to its red cherry and currant fruit.  You can tell this is no saignée side product – it’s made like a white wine, said Garcia. Good job.  Mapa White 2016 is an un-oaked blend of Arinto  and Viosinho from a Douro Superior vineyard in Muxagat at 600m.  Aged on lies with batonnage, it has a nice touch of flinty/mineral reduction to its well-defined stone fruits.  Favaois is renowned for its Moscatel so naturally, Garcia makes one.  Mapa Moscatel Galego 2016 (un-oaked, aged on lies) is dry, very floral, with a citrus backbone, grapy freshness and good intensity and line.  The writer/winemaker picks the fruit when the grapes are still very green.

I was sorry only to discover the wines of Márcio Lopes at the end of two long days of intensive tasting.  I’d have liked to spend more time tasting and finding out about his projects – Pequenos Rebentos, Proibido, Permitido and Ensaios Soltos.  But from what I did see I reckon Lopes is a name to watch.  Pequenos Rebentos Alvarinho 2015 (Monção e Melgaço Vinho Verde) is made “À Moda Antiga,” that is to say foot trodden before being aged for nine months in old oak barrels.   It is incredibly tight and youthful,a touch cheesy/savoury and interesting.  Very intense.  Definitely a wine to spend time with.  I’ll be back for more!

From the Douro, Permitido 2015 is made from old vine Rabigato grown at 700m in Mêda, the Douro Superior, which means field blend vines were cherry picked for just one grape.  Hard work!  Well concentrated with nutty overtones and green undertones.  Again, wine I’d like to linger over to tease out the layers. I gained a fleeting impression of firmess, florals and freshness tasting Anel Reserva Tinto 2015 (Douro), which is mostly made from Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca with a seasoning of old vine fruit.  The red which stuck with me was Proibido Grande Reserva Tinto 2013 which is made from older (40 to 80 year old) field blend vines.  Very perfumed with great floral lift, terrific intensity and depth within a firm, dry frame.

So all in all, I made some great finds – more than ever – at Simplesmente 2017.  Even though I did not manage to get around all 84 tables.  At least I had recently visited some of those producers.  You’ll find reports of my October and November visits with Filipa Pato & William Wouters here and an extensive report of a visit and vertical with Azores Wine Company here.

BIG thanks to the producers, restaurants, artists and musicians who made Simplesmente such fun and gave the wines a cultural context which is so very absent at mainstream wine fairs.  Two special shout outs go to Diogo Ribas Amado of Prova wine bar (a must see for wine lovers visting Oporto) who hosted Friday’s pre-fair lunch with growers.  And most especially Simplesmente Vinho co-founder João Roseiro of Quinta do Infantado (which I must visit one year!) and his daughter and son Sara and Gustavo.  They worked non-stop behind the scenes to pull off this event.

 

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