Monday, 30 April 2012
Portugal's Vinho Verde
With over 600 native varieties, it is hard to generalise about Portugal, but my experience of the reds is that they are rather like Austria's, with cherry fruit and grippy tannins, tending to be workmanlike at the lower levels and only really coming into their own at higher price points.
My full conversion to Portuguese reds came over time with a number of tastings, but especially at a Noval Port Dinner at my local Hotel Du Vin where a number of table wines were matched superbly with great food.
In marketing terms, it seems to me that Portugal needs to follow the Austrian model of quality over quantity and I wrote a (fairly theoretical) piece on this - Strange Bedfellows - after an online discussion.
And so to these two Vinho Verde examples - literally "green wine" and meaning young wines from the north of the country designed as sippers for early drinking - these two show what white Vinho Verde can be; one a spritzy, entry-level sipper, the other more complex, sophisticated and food-friendly.
Arca Nova Branco Vinho Verde, 2011
Bright yellow in the glass with a light spritz, it is mineral on the nose.
Made from a blend of native grapes Loureiro, Arinto and Trajadura, it is light, fresh and lemony with ripe pineapple; mouthwateringly, moreishly sweet-sour on the palate with a touch of grapefruit or quinine bitterness.
Elegant, balanced and well-made, it is a lovely light sipper either for the garden, an aperitif or with light seafood dishes.
Available from The Sampler, £7.90
Soalheiro Vinho Verde, 2011
From 100% Alvarinho, it is intensely complex, mineral and herbaceous on the nose.
The palate is mouthwateringly lemony and sweet-sour; there is ripe peachy stone fruit, great depth of flavour, length and complexity and a minerally finish.
This is refreshing enough to drink alone, but will also match with food - it reminds me of everything I love about Austrian Riesling and is similarly versatile - meaty fish, creamy pasta and white meat will all match well, whilst it has the body to stand up to strong, restaurant-style flavours.
Priced from £15.95 at Butlers Wine Cellar, Uncorked and Fortnum & Mason (2010 only).
Both wines provided for review and whilst neither is exactly cheap, the quality certainly justifies the price.
Vinho Verde - http://www.vinhoverde.pt/en/