IWA – tastings with the Independent Winegrowers’ Association, 2008 & 2009

The Independent Winegrowers’ Association is a group of quality-focused boutique producers who have banded together to market their wines and champion the best native Portuguese grape varieties.  Wines are made exclusively from their own vineyards in some of  Northern Portugal’s sexiest regions. They are:

  • Alves de Sousa (the Douro)
  • Quinta de Ameal (Vinho Verde)
  • Casa de Cello (Quinta de Sanjoanne, Vinho Verde & Quinta da Vegia, Dao)
  • Quinta de Covela (Minho)
  • Luis Pato (Bairrada/Beiras)
  • Quinta dos Roques (Dao)

These notes are based on 3 tastings with them in November 2008 and March & July 2009.

Alves de Sousa

The Alves de Sousa family has 6 quintas (vineyards) in the Douro, Gaivosa, Vale da Raposa, Caldas, Estacao, Aveleira and Oliveirinha.   Domingos, the current owner/incumbent, elected to make his own wines and port rather than sell the grapes to shippers as his predecessors had done.  The wines are amongst the most distinctive in the Douro.  For me, they have a wildness that reflects the landscape itself.

Branco da Gaivosa 2006 – an exotically fruity (lychee), generous but floral (talc/rose water) blend of old vine fruit, mostly Malvasia Fino, Arinto and Gouveio from a vineyard at c. 500m.  A light kiss of oak.

Gaivosa Tinto 2003 – this blend of Touriga Franco, Tinta Cao and Touriga Nacional is only made in exceptional years; it shows plenty of vinous, savoury character with bloody, mineral notes to its concentrated plum, bramble and blackcurrant fruit; present but ripe tannins.

Alves de Sousa Reserva Pessoal Tinto 2003 – made from the best grapes from the oldest vines at Gaivosa which has a lot of Tinta Amarela.  More mineral and sanguine, with rich plummy fruit, firm tannins and good acidity; lots of get up and go.

Quinta do Gaivosa Vinha de Lordelo Tinto 2005 – made from a very old (c. 100 year old vineyard) with correspondingly low yields (10hl/ha) this has tremendous gout de terroir and mouthfeel; a concentrated deep seam of fruit with eucalypt notes but, despite its big frame, it is unshowy, dry and vinous, with super refined tannins….really draws you back to the glass – one to savour.

Abandonada Tinto 2005 – I have a real soft spot for this wine from an old mixed vineyard with a big eucalyptus tree.  My tasting notes always refer to its eucalyptus and smoked pepper edge to its plush, brooding fruit.  Vinous, wild and headstrong – goes its own way.  Fabulous character.

Quinta do Ameal

Owned by Pedro Araujo, whose family founded the port house Ramos Pinto,  Ameal is located in Ponte do Lima in the heart of the Minho’s Vinho Verde country.  The sub-region of Lima is famous for single varietal Vinho Verde made from the Loureiro grape variety and Ameal focus exclusievly on this noble grape.  It makes a very aromatic, floral style of wine.

One of Vinho Verde’s finest winemakers, Anselmo Mendes, fashions the wines and, as with Anselmo’s own wines, they are atypical in their power and penetration.  Pedro explains he has reduced yields drastically, by around 60% to 5t /ha and works hard in the vineyard to get better ripeness and complexity with structure.  For 2 years, he has been working organically.

Loureiro 2008 (Vinho Verde) – really excellent, floral but with more body and minerality (a sense of dry extract) than the 07.  It shows pithy, spicy, ripe grapefruit.  Long and persistent.

Loureiro 2007 (Vinho Verde)
– very aromatic, floral wine with orange peel notes and some (typical for Loureiro) soapy lavender hints.  A lovely wine with great balance, intensity and a bit of bit of texture (they repass the juice through the press for a bit of skin contact, which gives structure and heightened aroma).

Loureiro 2001 (Vinho Verde) – it shows Riesling-like toast/kerosene aromas and, in the mouth, like an Australian Riesling has autolytic (toast) and lime cordial notes to its limpid, mineral palate  Nice length with rolling, stony acidity.

Loureiro 1999 (Vinho Verde)
– very deep gold hue with developed tufa/white porcini nose.  Still vibrant acidity with spice and honey.  Good.

Loureiro Escolha 2007 (Vinho Verde)
– fermented in French oak, Pedro is looking for a very delicate wood integration so he uses old barrels and the wine spends only 5-6 months in barrel.  It is dry, quite delicate, with sweeter tangerine citrus, more developed orange peel and spice notes and less emphasis on the floral dimension than the “basic” wine.  Textured, mineral finish.

Loureiro Escolha 2004 (Vinho Verde)
– a spicy aniseed and cinnamon bark character with developed, riesling-eque petrol; has put on weight in the mouth compared with the 07,; bitter trace to the finish.

Ameal Arinto Espumante 2002(VR Minho) – made by the traditional method with the second fermentation in bottle and 3 years on the lees it has a small component of the Loureiro Escolha but otherwise is made from a base wine of stainless steel fermented Arinto.  Good colour (yellow), with a very spicy (clove)/smoky nose, complex apple and mandarin fruit cut with lovely mouthwatering acidity. A great food wine given its complexity and body.

Casa de Cello

João Pedro d’Araujo’s family have grown grapes for four generations but only started making wine under his direction in 1996 at the family property, Casa de Cello, in Vinho Verde.  In 1999, João bought Quinta da Vegia, a 20 hectare property, near Viseu to make red wines only. He has restored the vineyards, planting them to Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela and Tinta Cao.  He is a strong believer in blends.

Quinta de San Joanne Branco 2007 (Vinho Verde) – a blend of Avesso and Loureiro from the Amarante sub-region of Vinho Verde where Avesso is the lead variety.  It is fresh, crisp, quite tight and citric on finish with lime notes.  Avesso is about structure, while Loureiro gives the perfume.

Quinta de San Joanne Branco 2008 (Vinho Verde) – very citrus, clean and lon with some hints of talc; good persistence.

Quinta de San Joanne Escolha 2004 (Minho VR)
– a blend of Alvarinho, Avesso and Chardonnay which spends 6 months in French oak, it shows apricot fruits with hints of tinned peach.

Quinta de San Joanne Superior 2007 (Minho VR)
– a blend of Alvarinho and Malvasia Fina it has a musky edged to its fruity nose and palate.  Nice concentration of peach and apricot cut with grapefruity acidity.

Quinta da Vegia Porta Fronha 2006 (Dao)
– a blend of Touriga/Aragones/Alfrocheiro, normally 50/30/20 it is initially a little reduced on nose but once it opens up it draws you in with floral notes and bright black cherry animated by lovely, lively mouth cleansing fruity acidity. Mouthcoating firm tannins.  Unoaked.

Quinta da Vegia Tinto 2006 (Dao)
– an unoaked blend of Touriga Roriz, Touriga Nacional and this year also Tinta Amarela; a deep colour with a good density of crunchy cinnamon dusted black cherry and berry fruit; firm tannins.

Quinta da Vegia Tinto Reserva 2006 (Dao)
– a blend of Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz it is deep in colour, with vanilla sugar oak on the nose and palate which has concentrated fleshy black fruit with lots of dark chocolate and firm, ripe tannins; again needs time but good potential.  (Opened up a good deal between November 08 and July 09)

Covela

Certified organic and in conversion to biodynamic viticulture, Covela borders the Minho and Douro region and is owned by Nuno Araujo, Pedro of Ameal’s brother. Though the estate overlooks the Douro river, it just falls outside the Douro region and into the Minho by reason of its granite soils (schist soils typify the Douro).

Nuno established Covela in the 1980s and this beautiful estate comprises 34 hectares of which 19 hectares are under vine, planted to over a dozen Portuguese and, unusually, several international grape varieties.  Nuno strongly believes in terroir and biodiversity – the rest of the land is planted to fruit orchards and a cork forest.  The first wines were bottled in 1994.  They are made by Nuno’s cousin, the well-known consultant winemaker Rui Cunha.

Covela Escolha Branco 2007 (VR Minho) – mineral, with good fruit intensity, mouthfeel and length to its bright citrus/citrus peel palate and ripe mandarin. Lovely length with a mendacious Pinocchio’s nose finish that just keeps going and going with its wash of fennel and minerals… It’s predominantly made from the Avesso variety blended with Chardonnay and Gewurtraminer.

Covela Escolha Branco 2008 (VR Minho) – bottled 6 weeks previously (July 09 tasting), the Gewurtz is quite evident on the nose with its spice and rose petal.  Richer than the 2007 with fresh cut apples, spice and mineral; good length.

Covela Colheita Branco Seleccionada 2006 (VR Minho) – 60% Chardonnay/40% Avesso fermented and aged in french oak with batonnage.  Richer and riper with layers of tangy yoghurty rather than creamy fig, apple, citrus and greengage fruit with a lick of fennel and and a mineral backbone of acidity.

Covela Colheita Branco Seleccionada 2007 (VR Minho) – 60% Chardonnay/40% Avesso – lots of white peach and tropical fruit salad flavours on the nose and creamy, ripe palate.  A little sweet (fruit ripeness/oak) for my taste.

Colvelha Escolha Palhete 2007 (VR Minho) – Nuno prefers to call this Palhete than rose because it’s effectively “a shy red” made from dedicated parcels of Touriga Nacional and Merlot.  Textured with good intensity of flavour (floral, cherry, pomegranate), it is persistent, dry and well structured – an Amazonian Barbie!  Very grown up.

Covela Tinto Escolha 2005 (VR Minho) – an unoaked red blend of Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, spicy and floral with quite sturdy liquorice-edged fruit tannins and a smoky, gravelly, earthy undertow to its well defined, fresh red and black berry and currant fruit.  A very good reason where there should be more unoaked reds – love its freshness and food friendliness.

Covela Tinto Seleccionada 2003 (VR Minho )– a deep plum colour with lots of fruit spice on the nose; the palate is distinctly dry with quite sturdy tannins and that mineral, gravelly character again, even coal dust here fleshed out with liquorice-edged plum – quite Bordeaux-esque actually.  Lovely freshness and vinosity – again a great food wine.

Luis Pato

Luis Pato is the most famous winemaker of the Bairrada region.  Insofar as the region has profile, it’s pretty much down to him.  His wines combine the best features of tradition (native grapes/terroir) with the best modern production techniques.  And perhaps on account of his science background, Luis is always experimenting, pushing the boundaries and increasing his range.  A very exciting winemaker – I’m always keen to see what he’s up to.

Because Luis’ thoroughly modern approach was ahead of its time, he elected to use the Beiras Vinho Regional label rather than the DOC Bairrada on his labels.  Bairrada is now catching up with him and, by way of marking this, Pato used the Bairrada designation for the maiden release of Vinha Formal Espumante 2008.

Maria Gomes Sparkling – (with 5% Arinto).  A primary, fresh ‘n upfront style that spends 3-6 months on the lees and shows fresh, floral and applely fruit with white pepper.

Touriga Nacional Espumante 2007 – aromatic and floral with sweet raspberry fruit; clean, delicate and well done.

Baga Espumante – delicate pink in colour and flavour with cranberry and cherry and a biscuity, autolytic note.

Luis Pato Vinha Formal Espumante 2008 – 50% Touriga Nacional, 50% Bical, barrel fermented for 1 month in cask it is very fresh and applely nose with some body/richness here too. Very good.

Vinha Velhas Branco 2007 – ripe and creamy fruit salad flavours with spicy wood (chesnut); both generous and structured.

Vinha Formal 1999 – a barrel-fermented and aged Bical it shows a tufa/white porcini nose but still enjoys good freshness on the palate which animates its honeyed quince fruit.  Very good.

Vinha Barrosa 2005 – Baga from the oldest vineyard, it shows a sweet oak nose, with plenty of eucalypt edged fruit behind wed to firm, ripe tannins; very young, lots of potential; closed now.

Quinta do Ribeirinho Pe Franco 2006 – the flagship Baga made from tiny yields (8hl/ha), it is savoury, toasty and vinous with present but very ripe, powdery tannins to its fine depth of black fruits; elegant yet with tremendous concentration and power.

Quinta dos Roques/Quinta das Maias

The Roques family has cultivated wines for over a century but, as is typical in the Dao region, grapes were sold to the local co-operative. But in the 1980s, the family decided to go it alone and the first wines were produced in 1990.  They also own Quinta das Maias in the Dao.

Although the tradition is to blend, Roques has firmly championed local Portuguese varieties and produce a number of single varietal wines as well as blends. The estate is run by Manuel Lopes de Oliveira and his son-in-law, the amiable Luis Lourenço who says “we would have been 200 years behind the French and 50 years behind Australia if we’d gone with Cabernet Sauvignon etc.  With indigenous grapes, we can draw on our own experience.”

And their experience has provided a great insight into the qualities of the individual varieties  – how they perform in the vineyard and in the glass.  Roques is one of the Dao’s most progressive producers.

Maias Malvasia Fina 2007 (Dao) – Luis believes Malvasia Fina is the most flavourful grape in Dao.  This sees 100% new french oak and has exotic, ripe notes on the nose which follow through on a waxy honey tinged palate with mineral acidity.

Roques Encruzado 2007 (Dao)
– 65% barrel fermented and aged in new french oak which is currently very present (in November 08 but had reduced markedly by March 09).  There’s a freshness and balance there with its juicy ripe citrus (pineapple) fruit and creamy texture with, by March 09, a touch of resin.  Good persistence.

Maias Jaen 2006 (Dao) – a difficult vintage, but Jaen is an early ripener so this weathered the harvest well.  Floral with cinnamon dusted bright red berry and cherry fruits, some firm supporting tannins and good freshness.  Luis says “it’s fashionable to say it’s a 2nd grape but that’s not true, rather there are some 2nd grape producers.  If it’s well made and you are careful in the vineyard (you have to do a green harvest), it makes great wine – it’s a very honest grape.”

Roques Reserva 2006 (Dao) – a single, mixed vineyard blend of Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Tinta Cao.   A difficult year – you had to pick before 21 September to avoid the rains.  This was and shows nice fruit purity (damsons, plums and red cherry) with lifted cinnamon spice and firm supporting tannins.  Elegant.

Roques Touriga Nacional 2005
– concentrated, ripe wild berry and currant fruit with some chocolate.  Great precision with a firm backbone of tannin; long and ageworthy.

Maias Flor das Maias 2005 (Dao) – the maiden vintage of this new top tier wine.  Though Jaen is generally the top performer at Maias, in 2005 the Touriga Nacional was outstanding and the best grapes were selected at harvest for this wine which also has 10% Alfrocheiro and 10% Jaen.  Made in a modern, flashy style, Touriga’s singular glossy chocolate-edged black and red fruits shine through.  Concentrated with fine grained tannins.  Lots of potential though a little too rampant with Touriga for my taste.

Roques Garrafeira 2003 (Dao) – only made in exceptional years this blend is a barrel selection of the best Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Cao. Complex with an inky, dark, nose it has a lovely depth of savoury bacon fat and bay leaf edged black and red fruits with rich, ripe supporting tannins and deft balancing acidity-  a real lightness and elegance here. Very well done.

Sarah Ahmed
The Wine Detective
November 2008 & March and July 2009
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