Quinta de Soalheiro Alvarinho Vinho Verde: a vertical and, first taste, Soalheiro Dócil

Soalheiro means sunny and Quinta de Soalheiro, owned by the Cerdeira family, is located in the warmer, drier north of the Vinho Verde, in the sub-region of Melgaço. Here and in neighbouring Monçao, Alvarinho thrives and the Cedeiras specialise in this, Portugal’s most exciting white grape.  Today, in addition to a fortified Aguardente, they make no less than five cuvees:

  • Quinta de Soalheiro – the classic (which includes some bought in fruit)
  • Quinta de Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas – an old vine selection (the oldest vines date back to 1974), , partly fermented in oak
  • Quinta de Soalheiro Reserva – 100% fermented and aged on the fine lees in a mix of new and aged French oak with batonnage
  • Quinta de Soalheiro Espumante Soalheiro – a “méthode traditionnelle”sparkling wine (with second fermentation in the bottle like Champagne)
  • Quinta de Soalheiro Dócil – an off dry style.

Primeiras Vinhas and Dócil , first made in 2006 and 2008, are the exciting outcome of a creative collaboration between Luis Cedeira and Dirk Niepoort ofNiepoort (Niepoort Girasol Vinho Verde is made at Soalheiro).

Here are my notes of a vertical tasting presented by Luis Cedeira at Encontro com o Vinho e Sabores 2010 in Lisbon.  You’ll find my report of an earlier vertical (November 2008) here.

Quinta de Soalheiro 1995 – yellow and with its toast and citrus curd on nose and palate, it immediately puts me in mind of a mature Australian Riesling or Semillon.  With fifteen years under its belt, with shows great freshness – persistent and long, with an attractive saline bite.  Impressive.

Quinta de Soalheiro 2002 – a very bright nose, with flowers and fruit which follow through in the mouth, all honeysuckle and juicy, fresh peach with a mineral undertow.   Long and persistent.  Really delicious – if you like Viognier but find it a little heavy, this is the wine for you.

Quinta de Soalheiro 2007 – quite flinty and tight with green tomato and hints of toast to its mouthwatering greengage fruit.  One senses this is dumbing down a little with an eye to the long term.   Keep. (12.9% abv, TA 6.2g/l, Ph 3.3)

Quinta de Soalheiro 2008 – I’m a big fan of 2008 Vinho Verdes, which have great structure and vibrancy.  This is no exception, with lovely breezy freshness and minerality on nose and palate, good depth too.  Refined, very good. (12.5% abv, TA 7g/l, Ph 3.27)

Quinta de Soalheiro 2009 – super fresh, sorbet nose.  In the mouth there’s no shortage of fruit or bite, with juicy greengage and yellow plum as well as tropical notes (attractive sour pineapple and green mango).  Punchy; very good. (12.5% abv, TA 6.2g/l, Ph 3.35)

Quinta de Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas 2007 – unlike the classic wine, both this wine and the Reserva are naturally fermented, something which Luis says they’ve been able to do since working their vineyards organically.  As he puts it, “we have the equilibrium – the future is biodiversity – with more insects, pollination is better and grape skins thicker.”  And as for the wines, it seems to produce greater complexity, palate weight and texture.  In contrast to the classic 07, this is really composed right now, with beautiful balance and structure to its stone fruited depths.  Long and lovely. (13% abv, TA 6.4g/l, Ph 3.2)

Quinta de Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas 2008 – the 08 made my cut for my 50 Great Portuguese Wines and, though it was and remains quite one of my favourite wines I’ve tasted in the last 18 months, I was hesitant about choosing it because my predecessor, Jamie Goode had selected the 2007 vintage for his 50 Great  Portuguese Wines.  This re-taste vindicates the decision.  It’s quite different from the 07, with a wild edge (honey and camomile) to its well structured palate which shows good layer and depth of stone and tropical fruits with a delicious seam of minerality.  Terrific  and, for Luis, one of the best Alvarinhos he has made “more mineral and elegant.” (12.9% abv, TA 7g/l, Ph 3.1)

Quinta de Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas 2009  – a bright nose leads onto a relatively weighty, rich palate with white peach.  Powerful but with freshness and definition.    Very good (12.9% abv, TA 6g/l, Ph 3.3)

Quinta de Soalheiro Reserva 2006 – like Primeiras Vinhas, made with older vine material so good concentration here, the oak evident in its spice and “groomed” palate.  More new oak was used compared with 07 and 08 and 06 was a lower acid year, so a little work in progress.  Good, just a touch suppressed by the oak. (13.2% abv, TA 5.9g/l, Ph 3.2)

Quinta de Soalheiro Reserva 2007 – this is certainly not repressed with positively exuberant peach and tropical fruit.  Ripe and a little less dimensional and interesting for me compared with the Primeiras Vinhas. (13% abv, TA 6.4g/l, Ph 3.3)

Quinta de Soalheiro Reserva 2008 (13.2% abv, TA 7.6g/l, Ph 3.15) – again, 2008 gets my vote, perfumed, bright and fresh with mouthwatering, vibrant, tangy acidity.  Long, tight and powerful.  Excellent  – a keeper!

Quinta de Soalheiro Dócil 2009 – very bright and fresh on the nose.  Noticeably sweet on the entry and going through, with ripe but juicy yellow plum and tropical fruit.  The fruit profile puts me in mind of tasting Ernie Loosen’s young Rieslings in Germany’s great (ripe) 2007 vintage, though I guess true to its name, Dócil has gentler (rolling not penetrating) acidity.  Good clarity and freshness, just lacks a little drive. (9% abv)

Quinta de Soalheiro Dócil 2008 – you’ll not be surprised to hear, given the year, I preferred this tighter and brighter vintage with its slatey minerality.  The acidity is zestier, which gives better balance, line and length to its spicy, pithy lime and grapefruit.  A lovely lime blossom nose too.  Me gosto! (9% abv)

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