Ambitious Vinho Verde: Pequenos Rebentos Edição Limitada White & Red
In February, I visited with Márcio Lopes, tasting cask samples of Pequenos Rebentos Edição Limitada Vinho Verde wines. Now in bottle, Pequenos Rebentos Edição Limitada Loureiro Vinhas Velhas and Tinto Atlântico 2017 reflect this protegee of Anselmo Mendes’ ambition and willingness to push boundaries.
For reds especially – until quite recently the mainstay of Vinho Verde plantings and production – the boundaries beg to be pushed at a time when lighter reds capture the zeitgeist. Lopes’ first effort is very likeable and promising. I reckon there’s more potential to be squeezed out of Vinho Verde’s reds. Without resorting to ripeness, extraction and oak, I might add. Rather, seeking to reflect the freshness, salinity and minerality of the region, which Lopes has cleverly referenced in the name of his red – Atlântico.
Below you’ll find my notes on the wines. Pequenos Rebentos are imported into the UK by Indigo Wines.
Pequenos Rebentos Edição Limitada Loureiro Vinhas Velhas 2017 (DOC Vinho Verde)
In February, Lopes showed me the vineyard from which he selects an old vine (29 year old) parcel for extra intensity. This wine was naturally fermented and aged for seven months in used Puligny Montrachet barrels. Nose and palate are stony and mineral, focused and firm. The acidity, quite punchy, makes for a very well-structured, long wine. Far removed from the floral/bath salts nose and vapid palate of high production Loureiro, it makes quite the impression, from bracing lime pith and peel attack onwards. Think classic dry Australian Riesling. Clare Valley Riesling, given punchiness and line. In the mouth, the oak brings a touch more palate presence than is common for Loureiro – quince/firm pear-like body – mineral (pleasingly pebbly) round, not fruity (fleshy) round. The variety’s floral and vegetal notes – bath salts, bay leaf and laurel – subtly play around the penetrating, saline finish. It’s youthfully bracing now, which would make it a great pairing with fresh shucked oysters and a squeeze of lime, but I’d give it a year or two in bottle to really express itself/grow into itself. This limited edition release comprises just 1699 bottles. 12%
Pequenos Rebentos Tinto Atlântico 2017 (DOC Vinho Verde)
This wine harks back to the past in that it is a vinha ramada (pergola-trained, pictured) field blend of Cainho, Alvarelhão and Pedral. This traditional training system was also focused around quantity, not quality but, as the impressive (if rather un-eco-friendly), wax-sealed bottle suggests, Lopes has set his sights higher. For all that, it is a modest wine in certain respects. A vin de soif made for upfront drinking, not cellaring. But just really well done – an artisanal, thoughtful, thought-provoking red. When I tasted it the first time – a cask sample – I was struck by its light creaminess (think cream soda), which still defines this wine, literally smoothing over, becalming if you like, its high natural acidity. Fermenting it on skins for just one day (Cainho and Pedral have lots of colour in skins) successfully knocks on the head the high tannin that can also make red Vinho Verde somewhat aggressive. Having completed fermentation in old barrels, the fruit is not overdone and there’s no sense of tricking up the perfume or fruit with inoculated yeasts either. All told, it makes for an approachable but interesting wine – the fruit neither sweet, nor sour. Rather, sapid. And with no acid or tannin elbows (thanks to that creaminess and gentle extraction), its fresh, slightly earthy, red cherry fruit with a twang of wild bilberry is delivered in an even, deliberative way. Finishes dry (of flavour spectrum) and mineral, with a stony, granitic quality (for me, not stony pebbly, but glistening mica crystals – obviously, that’s a very personal tasting note!) Just 999 bottles were produced. 11.5%