Organic wines from Portugal, slowly turning over a new leaf

With the copy off my desk on my Decanter Portugal feature, next up I’ll start reviewing the copy on Portugal, Port & Madeira for Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine’s 2012 edition so, with Portugal in mind, here’s an interesting little snippet of information I picked up from fellow Portuguese specialist writer Richard Mayson.  Mayson owns Quinta do Centro in Portalegre, an exciting (elevated) sub-region of Alentejo in the south. 

According to Mayson, Portugal lags way behind other countries when it comes to organic cultivation – “at the moment, of the 230,000 hectares of vineyard in Portugal, just 1,800 hectares are organic.” He says more sustainable methods of cultivation “seem to be anathema to many Portuguese producers who continue to pile on the herbicide, pesticide and fertilizer.”  Mayson intends to improve the figure by at least 20ha – the size of his estate, which he is planning to move towards fully organic cultivation over time.

For those keen to know of producers who have won their stripes on the eco front, here are some favourite wines and a Port which are certified organic or, in the case of Afros (pictured), biodynamic – Portugal’s one and only.

Afros Vinho Verde – authentically green wine from one of the region’s leading proponents of Loureiro and (red) Vinhão, both in still and sparkling form (see here for a report on my July visit and contact Les Caves de Pyrene for stockists).

Symington Family Estates Altano Douro Organic – from one of three vineyards owned by the Symingtons in the Villarica Valley in the Douro Superior, all 150ha of which they’re now farming organically.  (£9.99 at Majestic – see here for my tasting note).  

CARM Quinta do Coa  – also from the Douro Superior, which is the region’s warmest, driest sub-region, CARM Quinta do Coa 2007 made the cut for my 50 Great Portuguese Wines (see here).  It’s sold by Fareham Wine Cellar  for £14.95 and Quinta do Coa wines (but not this one) are also listed in the UK by organic wine specialist Vintage Roots.  Incidentally, in the 2009 vintage, CARM also produced an unsulphured Touriga Nacional (sem sulfuroso adicionado).  Unfortunately,  the bottle that I tasted this summer was beyond the pale in terms of oxidation, but I’ve read some good reviews of it…

Fonseca Terra Prima Organic Reserve Port – £15.19 at Waitrose or £11.99 (though currently out of stock) at Viva, who I mention nonethless because all of their wines are organic and vegan.


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