Champion whites from Anselmo Mendes, Vinho Verde champion
This year’s The Wine Society annual blind Wine Champions tasting includes two Vinho Verdes from Anselmo Mendes, both of which I’ve tasted this month. For no less than the third year in a row, Anselmo Mendes Contacto Alvarinho was declared a Wine Champion, while his even more modestly priced Muros Antigos Loureiro made the cut this year too. Contacto was among my 50 Great Portuguese Wines’ selection in 2010 and, at £10.95 a bottle, how could I resist? I shelled out for a case pronto!
Both champs come from the 2015 vintage – a year which Mendes has rated as probably his best to date. You’ll find my notes on them and several other Alvarinhos from Mendes’ exceptional range below – all the wines tasted this month.
Anselmo Mendes Muros Antigos Loureiro 2015 (Vinho Verde)
Classic Loureiro to the eye and nose – pale with green glints and a pretty floral nose. But true to Mendes’ style (he also makes Quinta do Ameal), even at this price point he delivers plenty of citrus zip – lip-smacking lime with impressive concentration, line and lift. It was a revelation for the audience at a recent tasting at Croydon Town Hall for The Warehouse Theatre, especially when I told them how well it ages – check out my notes on a vertical of this wine and other Vinho Verdes from Anselmo Mendes’ exceptional range here. 12% £7.95/bottle at The Wine Society.
Anselmo Menes Contacto Alvarinho 2015 (Monçao e Melgaço, Vinho Verde)
As for Contacto, it was an instant hit with the London sommeliers visiting northern Portugal with me, along with Mendes’ other Alvarinhos (which I’ve also written up below). It was duly snapped up in Oporto airport duty free! Contacto is sourced from Monçao, closer to the river. It’s a little flatter than Melgaço with sandy, granitic soils and lots of pebbles, which tends to produce slightly more generous styles of Alvarinho. First made in 2008 (the vintage I selected for my 50 Great), Contacto sees around 12 hours’ pre-fermentation skin contact. It’s more restrained on the nose than Muros Antigos Alvarinho 2015 from Melgaço (see my notes below), but really comes into its own in the mouth, which has a ripe core of peach and apricot fruit with piquant salty notes to its vibrant , long finish. Really delicious and ready to rock and roll. But will keep well too. That’s my summer dilemma – do I hold any back? I suspect resistance may be futile! 13% £10.95/bottle at The Wine Society.
Anselmo Mendes Muros Antigos Alvarinho 2015 (Monçao e Melgaço, Vinho Verde)
This cuvee is made from Melgaco-sourced fruit, which tends to be fresher, more aromatic (the Minho valley is higher and narrower here). It is a very fresh, elegant, sapid expression of Alvarinho, with mineral-laced lychee. Well-focused acidity makes for a persistent finish.
Anselmo Mendes Muros Antigos Alvarinho 2011 (Monçao e Melgaço, Vinho Verde)
With four years of age under its belt, the 2011 Muros Antigos has the lime cordial and toast of a mature Clare Valley Riesling and, similarly, has put on a bit of weight, transitioning into creamier stone fruits – peach – with a lick of herbs. Lovely complexity, concentration, balance and mouthfeel.
Anselmo Mendes Muros de Melgaco 2015 (Monçao e Melgaço, Vinho Verde)
Muros de Melgaco was Mendes’ first release back in 1998. It was the outcome of a 10 year study of barrel-fermented Alvarinho and launched a new era of more powerful Alvarinhos, hence the novel bottle shape. This cuvee is barrel fermented and aged for six months in French oak barrels – originally 225l, now a mix of 225l and 400l barrels for a bit more restraint. Mendes’ aim is to enhance complexity and texture whilst preserving Alvarinho’s primary aromas. It’s a very pale wine, youthfully firm on nose and palate with hints of vanilla to its delicate but succulent and juicy pear and lychee fruit. In my experience this wine needs a few years to unfurl and show itself. Keep a bottle on the go for 2-3 days to have a sneak preview of how it develops. I can well understand why Mendes rates this vintage so highly. This wine has plenty of finesse – delicate curlicues of flavour – with the underlying concentration and structure to last. Great potential.
Anselmo Mendes Curtimenta 2014 (Monçao e Melgaço, Vinho Verde)
Curtimenta is a blend of different parcels of Alvarinho which, for 24 hours, is fermented on skins. Fermentation finishes in used, 400-litre barrels where the wine undergoes batonnage for 9 months on fine lees. The skin contact lends a delightful edge of floral but slightly bitter (hence balancing) hops to this wine’s sweeter, more exotic attack of honeysuckle, pineapple and lychee fruit. Going through, it builds, revealing cooler notes of apple close to its satiny core, grapefruity acidity and hints of aniseed. Lovely purity, drive, freshness and structure.
Anselmo Mendes Curtimenta 2009 (Monçao e Melgaço, Vinho Verde)
Yellow gold with toasty oak nuances and tertiary fruit – yellow plums, kumquat, candied citrus as well as more primary herb-edged peach (from flesh to kernel, honeysuckle and hops. The acidity, almost crunchy, has a tartness. A wine in transition; still young.
Anselmo Mendes Parcela Unica 2014 (Monçao e Melgaço, Vinho Verde)
This very pale Alvarinho comes from Mendes’ best parcel – his most elegant Alvarinho. It is harvested separately each year and always stands out, though apparently there’s no obvious rhyme or reason behind its magic in terms of location or vine age. Parcela Unica was barrel-fermented and aged for 9 months on gross lees in new 400l French oak (very light toast) with batonnage. It makes for a super-silky, seductive Alvarinho, which tip toes and pirouettes across the palate, seemingly melting in the mouth/aromatising on the finish. Sublime mouthfeel, with lovely freshness. Very enjoyable now, though will land a bigger punch down the track with bottle age.
Anselmo Mendes Parcela Unica 2011 (Monçao e Melgaço, Vinho Verde)
Indeed the 2011 is showing greater depth of colour (not hard), its classy French oak (all lightly toasted spices, even a touch of smoke) informing nose and palate. But there’s great underlying freshness and vibrancy to the fruit beneath, which brings length and (restrained) breadth to the palate which has an incipient waxiness/nutty quality. Again, lovely texture and intrigue.