Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes (The Commission on Viticulture for the Region of Green Wines – but more on that later) hosted the tasting. The location was elegant, the wines were superb, the canapé were delicious and beautifully presented. Sarah Ahmed, the Wine Detective, presented a masterclass on the wines. The tasting was well-run with lots of information available on the wines, the grape varieties, the region (including interesting wine routes to try), and enthusiastic producers eagerly describing their wares. In short, it was a terrific event but, sadly, with quite low attendance (at least while I was there).
Why was that? I suspect it’s because almost everyone over the age of 40 (and many under 40) thinks of Mateus Rosé or Lancers in a squat, Bocksbeutel-type of bottle when they think of Vinho Verde.
Well, Vinho Verde has come a long way, baby, and deserves another long and thoughtful look.
To begin with Vinho Verde is not GREEN WINE, as the direct translation of the name implies. Instead, the name refers to the nature of the wine as one to be consumed young, when it is fresh and lively. With spring here now (hooray!) and summer just around the corner, the timing couldn’t have been better to feature these wines. If ever there were summer barbeque wines, these are the ones (even more so, in my opinion, than Provençal rosés). All the wines, even the reds, benefit from a little chilling, and they are superb with food, especially seafood and grilled meats – hello Summer!
While the common perception of Vinho Verde is that the wines are all white, they actually come in all the standard colours (red, white and pink – but NO green!) and a variety of styles, mainly still and sparkling. In fact, until quite recently, the majority of Vinho Verde wines were red though now more than 60% are white. All the wines are known for their racy acidity and crisp fruit character. The reds and rosés are quite savoury with interesting cranberry and strawberry fruits and good minerality.
All the wines were nice with the whites from Enoport (Acácio, Lagosta and Moura Basto) and Quinta de Carapeços (Alvarinho/Trajadure and 100% Alvarinho), to name just a few, being very enjoyable. However, it was the reds and the pinks and the sparkling wines that I found to be the real stars. Perhaps it was just the novelty of the wines, but I thought that they were the ones with the most interest as well as the ones least likely to be seen by the general public, which is a real shame.
Quinta das Arcas, Enoport, and Quinta de Carapeços.
Outstanding among the sparkling wines were the white and pink Espumantes from Quinta de Lourosa. Their rosé espumante is made from a blend of Syrah and Jaen, neither grape a native of the region. It had the most amazing nose of geraniums.
UC Davis National Grape Registry say it is but various Portuguese winemakers disagree). Vinhão is one of the few grapes, called teinturier, that has a dark coloured must (juice) in addition to its deep purple skin. This dark juice combined with the colour extracted from the skins means that Vinhão wines are almost black. Several of the tasters, after much debate, decided that the colour was deep aubergine and/or blackberry. While the wines can be somewhat tannic, all the ones I tasted had smooth, ripe tannins that were very pleasant and added great structure to the wines.
Afros (the 2007 vintage was named one of the “50 Great Wines of Portugal 2009” by Jamie Goode, the Wine Anorak) and the 2007 Arca Nova Vinhão-Escolha from Quinta das Arcas. The Arca Nova Escolha is only made in the best years. None was made in 2008 (though they did make basic Vinhão) so when the terrific 2007 is gone (and there wasn’t much made to begin with), we’ll have to wait until 2010 (assuming 2009 is a good year) before we’ll see anymore.
I also have to admit to being a bit of a dirty old lady because Vasco Croft, the winemaker at Afros, was not only articulate and delightful, he also was a dead-ringer for the young Richard Gere. A little bit of eye-candy certainly livened up the tasting for me.
In short, my recommendation is to seek out wines from the Vinho Verde. You won’t be disappointed.
As an aside - To add to the Vinhão confusion, a common problem (especially for Portuguese grapes which doesn’t aid their efforts to market their wines), the National Grape Registry records the following synonyms for Vinhão – “Azal Tinto, Espadeiro basto, Espadeiro da Tinta, Espadeiro de basto, Espadeiro do basto, Espadeiro Preto, Negrão, Negrão Pe de Perdiz, Negron, Pinta Femea, Sesão, Sousão, Sousão de Correr, Sousão do Douro, Sousão Forte, Sousen, Sousón, Sousón Retinto, Souzão, Souzão Forte, Souzon Retinto, Tinta, Tinta de Luzin, Tinta Femea, Tintilla, Tinto, Tinto Antigo, Tinto da Parada, Tinto de Parada, Tinto Nacional”. Are you confused yet?