Vinho Verde – an Alvarinho fest in Melgaço
After catching the 6.15am flight from Gatwick to Oporto, short of caffeine, Vinho Verde is probably the best way to stay on your toes. Following a bracing generic Vinho Verde tasting in Oporto (yet to be reported), we headed due north to Melgaço, Vinho Verde’s northernmost outpost, about 2 hours’ drive away.
When in Melgaço, single varietal Alvarinho Vinho Verde is the order of the day and the quality is consistently high thanks to its relatively warm, dry climate. The wines are ageworthy too (see my report of a vertical at Quinta de Soalheiro here). The region has its own Alvarinho route (see here) so you can visit its producers (it covers the neighbouring Monçao too, also famous for its Alvarinho) and a tasting house, the Solar do Alvarinho, pictured. Very buzzy it was too, so it should definitely be on the to-do-list of any self-repecting wine-loving tourist. Though I didn’t make it this time, add the Panorama restaurant to the itinerary – I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s better and more atmospheric than the restaurant at Monte Prado, the new spa hotel where we stayed and dined, though the rooms here are very contemporary and comfortable. And, should you fancy it, their spa menu features an Alvarinho massage. I prefer to drink it so, without more, here are my tasting notes which showcase the different styles of Alvarinho being made.
Quinta do Feital Dorado Alvarinho Superior 2008 – I first came across these wines in March (see my report here) and it was good to meet with young Galician winemaker Marcial Dorado again and taste the latest vintage, especially since I’m a big fan of 2008s which have power and great balance. This wine is aged on the lees (an anti-oxidant) for a year and unfiltered, which Dorado said obviates the need for sulphur given Alvarinho’s naturally high acidity and alcohol, both of which retain help retain the wine’s structure. This is long and mineral in the mouth, tight, textured and persistent. An exciting Alvarinho, the fruit powerful, not showy. Very good.
Reguengo de Melgaço Quinta do Reguengo Alvarinho 2009 – the fruit expression dial is turned up a few notches here, though the delivery is nice and tight with a zesty seam of citrus and tropical citrus fruit. Long, persistent, poised and very lemony with a cool mineral quality, it’s very different and very good.
Quinta do Louridal Poema 2008 – this will be released in November after 1 year on the lees and several months in bottle. It has a little bit more acidity than the 2007 which I selected for my 50 Great Portuguese Wines. The aim here is good acidity for a drier food friendly style and lees ageing certainly adds mouthfeel and complexity to its core of bright lemon fruit with greengage hints. Really persistent and long – a mineral, almost sinewy quality to it. Very good.
Quinta do Regueiro Alvarinho Reserva 2009 – quite a bead here with some greengage and thiol NZ Sauvignon-like qualities to the nose. A more upfront style, in the mouth, rounder with pear, apricot and slightly creamy fruit salad. Good length and balance.
Provam Portal do Fildalgo 2009 – a very vibrant upfront style with lots of lively greengage fruit – mouthwatering and persistent. Well made.
Provam Vinha Antiga 2008 – this Alvarinho spends 6 months in French oak, a small percentage of which is new. It’s an old vine blend (6000 bottles versus the 100,000 of Portal do Fildago). Initially, I wondered if it lacked a bit of freshness with its spicy, cedary oak and rich, creamy fruit salad. But a mineral, juicy finish suggests it will benefit from a couple of years in bottle – there’s certainly no shortage of fruit power, though I’m not sure it has as much finesse as others. Apparently the winemaker likes to age it for 5-6 years in the bottle.
Quinta de Serrade Solar de Serrade 2009 – a relatively commercial style but well done with passionfruit, guava and honeysuckle on the nose and palate, amply underpinned by juicy, ripe fruity acidity.
Quinta de Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas 2009 – a slightly musky apricot nose and palate with sweet and sour elements. As always, good weight and depth here and, in this hotter year, the finish is rich and powerful.
Quinta de Soalheiro Alvarinho 2009 – Very juicy, bright tropical fruits with pineapple, fresh apricot and a wash of minerals. Lovely balance and length. Really on song now (as it the racier 2008, a bottle of which I opened for supper this evening as I write!)
Adega Cooperativa de Monção Deu-La-Deu Estagiado 2006 – though initially fermented in stainless steel the best fruit finds its way into barrel to complete its fermentation and matures with batonnage, after which it is bottle aged for a year before release. It shows the most overt oak influence of all the wines with vanilla and spice to its ripe mandarin and orange peel notes. A steely undertow of balancing, grapefruity acidity keeps the whole on track. Good.
Quintas de Melgaço Q.M 2009 – ripe tropical fruit, with pineapple on the nose and palate, greengage too. Very bright with a spicy, herbal note too (celery salt?). The finish is long and mineral. Very good.
Quintas de Melgaço Alvarinho Castrus de Melgaço 2009 – this wine, first made in 2004, sees a small percentage of barrel fermentation and its profile is quite different from the others. In fact it puts me in mind of a Chenin Blanc with tight but textured palate of quince, steely grapefruit and bruised apple. An interesting, tightly coiled wine. Interesting to see how it shows with some years under its belt.
The Wine Detective
(Wines tasted 17 July 2010)