Young Winemakers of Portugal: a great new initiative

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Though I’m at home all month, April has a distinctly Portuguese flavour.

All next week I’m chairing the Portugal panel at Decanter World Wine Awards.  This week sees the launch of several 2011 Vintage Ports and the Big Fortified tasting.  And last week (!), Olly Smith’s 50 Great (reviewed here) focused on great value Portuguese wines and the “Young Winemakers of Portugal” came to town.

young winemakersThe Young Winemakers of Portugal, pictured left to right, are João Maria Cabral (Camaleão & Clip), Luís Patrão (Vadio), Rita Marques (Conceito); Pedro Pinhão (Hobby) Pedro Barbosa (Clip) & Diogo Campilho (Hobby).  In late 2011, the friends pooled resources to promote their wines and showcase the talents of their well-travelled, adventurous generation. A great idea given Portugal’s wine industry has a somewhat conservative image – something the trail-blazing Douro Boys have helped counter, but good to see more hands on deck.

As for setting the pace, with her dynamic portfolio which encompasses the Douro and Vinho Verde, South Africa and New Zealand, no wonder Conceito’s Rita Marques (see below) is in the driving seat!  A dozen or more Conceito wines were on show (some previously reviewed here and here), while Camaleão and Clip produce one apiece and Vadio and Hobby a handful.

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Below are my highlights and mention must also be made of the intriguing venue Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel.  It’s home to another adventurous Portuguese – Nuno Mendes – whose Michelin-starred restaurant Viajante (meaning traveller) takes guests on a journey through the cuisine and wines of the world (though the growing Portuguese list is impressive).  And when he does Portuguese, it’s with a modern twist. “Cod with ‘Portuguese’ XO & coriander porridge” was a witty take on migas.

Clip do Monte da Vaia Loureiro 2012 (Vinho Verde)

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I was impressed by this wine which I first came across by chance in Alentejo.  It hails from the 10ha family estate of Quinta do Vale Meão’s viticulturist Pedro Barbosa and is made by João Maria Cabral.  The label portrays eucalyptus leaves from the giant tree at the entrance’s estate but, I’m pleased to say, there’s not a hint of it (eucalyptus) in this bell clear expression of Loureiro.  As you’d expect from this grape, it’s gently floral, with juicy flesh (succulent melon) to its (mineral and citrus striated) bones.  Ripe, round and fruity but refreshing and saltily mineral, this is a really drinkable but complex Vinho Verde.  11% (No UK importer as yet – should be snapped up!)

Camaleão Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Lisboa)

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Does the world need another Sauvignon-producing country?  I don’t think so.  But that said, this is a very good example and I’d expect nothing less from the man who describes himself as a disciple of Anselmo Mendes.  It’s crisp, fresh and reassuringly dry with grapefruit, subtle guava notes and mouthwatering mineral acidity.  Cabral says its chief market is Portugal and, with its thermal chameleon label which changes from green to blue as it arrives at the correct service temperature, this sophisticated Sauvignon is aimed at a young generation of drinkers.  11%

Hobby Abafado 2004

I find Diogo Campilho’s and Pedro Pinhão’s table wine range a little heavy on the oak for my liking, which is a shame because the fruit quality (brightness/freshness) is very good.  On the other hand this is the second short & squat of bottle fun fortified I’ve tasted in a week (the first being Família Horacio Simões Bastardo 2009) and, apparently, it’s going down a storm back home.  Made from three parts grape juice to brandy and aged in big (old) oak casks, it reminded me a bit of a Pineau des Charentes from the Loire, with its fresh, fruity and floral peach tea palate and marc-edged spirit. Serve lightly chilled. 16%

Vadio Red 2010 (Bairrada)

Luís Patrão’s full-time job is at Esporão, due south and inland in Alentejo.  At weekends, he joins his father to tend the family vineyard at Vale do Forno in Bairrada, of which he matures 50% in old barriques and 50% in vat before bottling ageing it for at least another three years.  Located on the best soils for Baga (chalky clay), though only 12-13% abv, his wines show ripe black and blue berry flavours but really well balanced acidity (Patrão tells me he can wait a long time for flavour and phenolic ripeness without gaining too much sugar and without dropping much acid).  The youthful 2010 shows a veneer of toasty oak to its juicy plum and berry fruit and a lively vein of acidity.  Approachable now but will benefit from another couple of years in bottle and keep for much longer. 12%

Grande Vadio Red 2010 (Bairrada)

This is the maiden flagship from particularly chalky soils, which the smoky nose gives away.  In the mouth, it’s shot through with a mineral wash of acidity.  Lovely fluidity, freshness and length to its ripe blueberry and blackberry fruit.  Fine tannins too.  Really well done. There’s a long life ahead of this one, but it’s silkily refined enough to enjoy in the short-term of you like the emphasis on fruit.  12%

Vadio Red 2009 (Bairrada)

A riper vintage and this has a degree more alcohol which, for Patrão, is a degree more than he’d like – the freshness of 2010 is the aim (although he admits when he first started making Baga, he found it hard to understand and adjust to its relative austerity compared with the plumper, more powerful wines of Alentejo (Esporão).  More expressive with riper plum jam notes, a hint of eucalyptus and glycerine roundness, the 2009 nonetheless has a good push and persistence of Atlantic acidity.  Good.

Vadio Red 2005 (Bairrada)

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This was Patrão’s first Bairrada red of which he cannily held back a significant number of bottles.  A fine whisp of smoke threads through the ripe blue and black fruits of this Baga.  It has floral lift too and lovely freshness and definition to the finish.  The tannins are ripe but present.  Showing very well – more elegant and expressive than when I first tasted it a few years ago.  12%

Conceito White 2011 (Douro)

I tasted this in barrel just over a year ago and great to see that it has retained its taut, flinty freshness (Marques has pulled back on the oak to great effect).  A lick of cedar and salt lends piquancy to its bright, water melon and juicily cool pear fruit.  As it opens up in the glass, it reveals sweeter mandarin nuances.  Finishes long, focused and mineral.  Terrific.  (And the 2012 barrel sample looks very restrained, fresh and limpid too).

Conceito Red 2011 (Douro)

Sticking with samples, the 2011 red also looks very promising indeed – seemingly with more fruit tannin and textural (very floral/damask rose) layers – lovely energy.

Conceito Bastardo 2011 (Duriense)

With more tannin sucrosity than previous vintages, this is a lithe Bastardo, which gives full vent to its ripe, round orange peel-edged soft red cherry and berry fruits.  A dash of white pepper lends lift and welcome edge.  A very drinkable wine with lots of character. (A sample of the 2012 looked quite reduced, but fresh – one to review).

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  1. M

    A great bunch of people creating great wines, which we thoroughly enjoyed in Lisbon last November. Genuine, talented, hard working and fun. Their wines reflect their personalities as well as the terroir. Just fabulous.


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