Azores Wine Company: new 2018 releases & new developments
It’s only a couple of years since I last holidayed on Pico, the Azores, but I returned in June for a quiet week away from it all. Within the tranquil scheme of things, new developments are afoot on the wine and tourism front. And I discovered it’s not so easy to go incognito these days. I bumped into Filipe Rocha of Azores Wine Company, who loaded me up with samples of the latest 2018 vintage, reviewed below.
Dining at old favourite, Ancoradouro, I also bumped into Curral Atlantis’ consultant winemaker, Paulo Laureano, conducting a vertical tasting for Portuguese wine writer Luis Lopes. Since I last tasted the range (and as fresh plantings take hold), Curral Atlantis has started making a varietal Terrantez do Pico. You may recall that Pico Co-op also makes one. Reviewed here, it was launched in 2017 together with a varietal Verdelho and Arinto dos Acores (and has since been imported into the UK by the leading Portuguese wine specialist, Raymond Reynolds). Conversely, the Azores Wine Company’s new baby – Vulcanico Branco – is a blend, soon to be superseded in the baby stakes by a new winery (pictured top and still work in progress when we were there).
You can find Pico and Sao Miguel tourism tips from my 2017 fortnight’s holiday on these islands on my website here additionally, from a previous work trip, in this Decanter feature. Here are some more pointers from this Pico-focused trip. New accommodation seems to be springing up everywhere. I collected the Azores Wine Company samples from their current cellar door in São Mateus, amongst the vines and looking out to the lighthouse and ocean beyond. The site is home to AWC co-founder Paulo Machado’s Insula Atlantis enoturismo holiday apartments. We stayed at Casa d’Avô Francisco, which we found through airbnb. Light and airy, this stylish small house in the small port village of Terra do Pao is a few minutes walk from a small natural sea water pool. It made for a refreshing start to the day or post-walk dip and, save for the last day, remained clear of our Portuguese bête noire – the Portuguese man o’ war. On a walk, we happened upon Magma, a new restaurant and bar with several very stylish-looking apartments, all with fantastic views of the ocean. I’d read about the restaurant in Up, TAP’s inflight magazine, where it got a good write up from a Lisbon-based chef in this feature, so it sounds worth checking out.
On our last holiday, we miserably failed to locate Galeria Costa, an outdoor gallery with art installations scattered around vineyards and surrounding bush. Quirky, playful and diverting, we visited twice. You don’t quite need a machete, but almost, to get down to the cliffs! Worth it for the view. It is located on the ocean-side of the main road (ER1), between Mirateca and Candelaria – closer to the latter as I recall. It’s not sign-posted, but look for an old, small stone building by a big gate into the vineyard, with a bus stop and old electricity tower a short distance further along the road. (We found it easiest to park on the cinder verge outside a large modern white house on the opposite side of the road). It’s open 24/7 and is free.
Azores Wine Company Vulcanico Rosé 2018 (IG Acores)
Pale salmon, with delicately creamy, savoury lees and equally delicate wild red cherry fruit to nose and palate, cut with a distinctively salty, energetic acidity. The savouriness, a touch oyster shell, reminded me of a Moroccan vin gris. Interesting and highly drinkable. The hand harvested fruit (a blend of Aragones, Touriga Nacional, Merlot and Syrah) was whole bunch pressed, racked after 24 hours and fermented in 600l to 1000l stainless steel tanks then aged with “battônage.” 20, 000 bottles. 11.5%
Azores Wine Company Vulcanico Branco 2018 (IG Acores)
This maiden pale yellow release is a blend of Arinto dos Acores and Verdelho. It reveals herbal, angelica notes with a pop of fennel seed on day two, with perfumed, touch under-ripe nectarine/nectarine skin and fresh white peach. Good mouthfeel, with volcanic ‘fatness’ and warm basalt, with firm, sluicing, saline acidity. Like the rosé, it was handpicked and vinified in 600l to 1000l stainless steel tanks with “battônage.” 11 136 bottles, 12.5%
Azores Wine Company Verdelho o Original 2018 (IG Acores)
A succulent, sluiced, refreshing palate, with prickly and conference pear, a lick of zesty, mouth-watering tequila lime and salt, a hint of fennel and, some richness despite the freshness. Whole bunch pressed and vinified in 600 to 1000l stainless steel tanks. 9902 bottles, 12.5%
Azores Wine Company Arinto dos Acores 2018 (DO Pico)
A peachy (yellow peach) nose, with ripe lemon, lovely citrus drive and a super salty, long, involving finish. Nice fruit weight, with apricot, but the acidity and salt sing. On day two, it is showing a hint of honey, honeysuckle even, with a mineral tang. Whole bunch pressed and vinified in 600 to 1000l stainless steel tanks. 14,970 bottles produced. 12.5%
Azores Wine Company Arinto dos Acores sur Lies 2018 (DO Pico)
A youthfully tighter nose and palate, with great depth and drive of salted limes, with succulent saltbush (salty, vegetal) and firm stone fruit. Its punchy acidity is sheathed to a degree by the lees, but is nonetheless penetrating, very mineral, with salt flecked intensity to the long, powerful finish. Handpicked and vinified in 600l to 1000l stainless steel tanks with “battônage.” 12.5% 3,300 bottles
Azores Wine Company Terrantez do Pico 2018 (IG Acores)
Broader than the Verdelho and Arinto dos Acores, 25% of the Terrantez do Pico was fermented in oak barrels for 9 months with “battônage” once a week. Typically for this wine, it has a salty, briny, brackish, earthy note and denser palate, very earthy/mineral and complex, with vegetal samphire notes. Pingy, very piquant, salty and salivating on the finish. 1667 bottles, 12.5%
Incidentally, AWC’s UK importer, Red Squirrel, has merged with another progressive independent importer, The Knotted Vine. Together, they go under the new moniker Graft Wine.