Portugal’s Green Revolution
Back to the future
There was a time in the 18th century when Vinho Verde was more than sweetness and light. It was a time before grapes were trained on trees and trellises to save land for food crops and treated more like a food crop themselves.
That’s the era that top producers of estate wines in Vinho Verde are returning to. Adding modern viticulture and winemaking techniques to tradition, they are crafting serious white wines.
As these dry wines come to the fore, so do the grapes they are made from. White Vinho Verde can be made from a blend of 15 grapes, but only a few of them truly stand out. According to consultant Anselmo Mendes, Alvarinho, Loureiro and Avesso are the stars of the region. Alvarinho and Loureiro are increasingly found as varietal wines, while Avesso more often appears in blends.
In the far north of the region, Alvarinho makes the richest and priciest wines, creamy and ripe, but always with more lift and acidity than its Spanish counterpart, Albariño.
In the central area, in the Lima Valley, Loureiro is the grape of choice. The wines are round, full of citrus and mineral flavors and textures. Elsewhere, blends reign supreme.
Bone dry—just taste that freshness—fruity when young and capable of aging for several years, these are world-class wines that stand in complete contrast to the branded wines. These represent an exciting wine style that’s awaiting discovery.
Unlike the branded wines, many of these wines will actually improve with a year or two in the bottle. The 2012s reviewed here should be at peak.
91 Casa do Valle 2012 Grande Escolha (Vinho Verde). This is an impressively rich wine, full of creamed apple and ripe apricot flavors. It has weight, a good amount of flesh, and acidity adding dimension to the concentration. Massanois Imports. Editors’ Choice.
abv: 13.5% Price: $17
91 Wines & Winemakers 2012 Toucas Alvarinho (Vinho Verde). A superior Vinho Verde, elegant and full-bodied. The creamy texture is partnered with ripe apricot and pear fruits, a touch of green plum and a feeling of opulence along with the acidity. Iberia Wine & Spirits LLC. Editors’ Choice.
abv: 12.5% Price: $19
90 Anselmo Mendes 2012 Muros Antigos Alvarinho (Vinho Verde). This is a rich and full-bodied wine that’s ripe and generous. It has spice, ripe apple and crisp pear-skin flavors along with tight, mineral acidity. Aidil Wines/Old World Import.
abv: 13% Price: $16
90 Quinta do Ameal 2011 Branco Seco (Vinho Verde). This is a fruity, floral Vinho Verde that’s very crisp and citrusy. It has bright acidity, a light, dancing character, and green fruits, grapefruit and a mineral texture that should come together deliciously for the summer. Oz Wine Company. Best Buy.
abv: 11% Price: $15