Vinho Verde, variety and variety

Most Vinho Verde is a blend of several varieties, but if there’s a stand out grape, it’s got to be Alvarinho (known over the border in Galicia, Spain, as Albarino). The variety is spreading its wings outside Vinho Verde and fast assuming the mantle of Portugal’s flagship white grape variety. Take Poeira Pó de Poeira Branco from the Douro, a blend of Alvarinho/Gouveio – for winemaker Jorge Moreira, Alvarinho is “the most complete and complex variety in Portugal.”

But if it’s pure Alvarinho you want, then Vinho Verde is the hotspot, specifically the sub-regions of Monçao and Melgaço, whose wines so adeptly walk the tightrope between ripe fruit and freshness. And because we’re in Portugal, there’s an exciting diversity of styles on offer – this is not the land of identikit wines! Here are two stylistically opposed favourites:

Quinta do Feital Dorado Alvarinho Superior 2007, DOC Vinho Verde – from a vineyard near Alvarinho hotspot Melgaco, this hails from shy-bearing 70-year-old vines, many ungrafted. This is a big, powerful wine, rich, round and a little leesy with ripe apricot fruit and subtly balancing bite of greengage. It’s on the funky rather than fruity fruity side – excellent. A great food wine for weightier fish or chicken dishes. £21.50 at hangingditch wine merchants.

Reguengo de Melgaço Alvarinho 2009, DOC Vinho Verde
– a wonderful concentration of tropical fruit salad on nose and palate. Lush, yet somehow delivered with great linearity thanks to good acid drive with a long, mineral finish to boot. Very good. £13.95 at Kevin O’Rourke Wines (currently stocking the equally fine 2008 vintage).

Other great examples: Quinta do Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas 2007/2008 £17.95 at Halifax Wine Company, Gloria Alvarinho 2008 £9.95 at Slurp Wines, Poema 2007 £11.95 at Castas and any Alvarinho from Anselmo Mendes – contact Atlantico Wines for stockists.