On the edge of Europe and next to 3,000 miles of ocean, Portugal's relative isolation has allowed the country to keep a taste for less-international styles of wine made from native varieties.
For a small country, Portugal is blessed with a wide range of climatic conditions - coastal, inland, valleys and mountains - and a range of soil types.
The north of the country is home to Vinho Verde; the name means "green wine" and refers not to colour but youthfulness - it is a light, fresh wine to be drunk young, rather than after a decade's ageing.
With a nine examples to try, I invited a group of friends and fellow enthusiasts to taste through a range of whites, rosés, varietals and blends from different sub-regions.
All the wines (with perhaps the exception of the roses, which I rather liked) were well-received, but there was no overall consensus on a favourite wine.
In general, people preferred the more contemporary-looking labels - especially the Casal Garcia - and noted that they would be put off by the old-school labels and Germanic flutes of the Deu Le Deu and Mulharas de Monçao if choosing from a supermarket shelf.
We tasted the wines in approximate order of increasing weightiness and sophistication.
Aveleda Casal Garcia Branco NV light, just 10% alcohol, citrussy and zippy; refreshing, pure and precise
Aveleda Casal Garcia Rosé bubblegum and red fruits; more texture and salinity than the branco
Arca Nova Rosé cranberry red in the glass, more substantial than the Casal Garcia; ripe red fruits with texture and persistence. A good picnic wine.
Arca Nova Branco pale sandy yellow, sandalwood and pear skin on the nose, orchard fruit, yellow apricot and salinity on the palate; good texture and persistence, precise and pure.
Quinta de Gomariz Loureiro pale sandy yellow, aromas of honeysuckle, beeswax and musky hints; tropical fruits, honeyed richness, green apple. Precise with fresh acidity and persistence on the finish.
Anjos de Portugal very pale straw yellow, a slight spritz, ripe apple fruits, crisp - a bramley / crab apple sharpness develops on the palate.
Adega de Monçao, Deu La Deu pale sandy yellow, honeysuckle on the nose, citrussy and sweet-sour, reminiscent of a Mosel Riesling (and packaged like one, too). Elegant and long with a persistent finish. Good
Quinta Da Lixa, Terras do Minho Branco 2012 pale sandy yellow, slight spritz, peach-skin aromas, ripe peachy-apricotty fruit, well-balanced, rounded and complex. Has a Gold Medal from Brussels. Good.
Muralhas de Monçao from further inland, this is higher in alcohol and more weighty; pale sandy yellow, slight spritz, peach skin aromas, ripe peachy, apricotty texture, hints of late-harvest richness and roasted peach flesh, some sweet spice and a warmness on the finish. Very Good.
There was nary a bad wine here and, as the group's opinions showed, favourites come down to personal preferences as much as anything.
The Casal Garcia Branco was widely liked for its attention-grabbing zippy freshness and slight spritz; it is perhaps the essence of what Vinho Verde should be.
Both Casal Garcia wines are available online from http://www.portugaliawines.co.uk/ and http://www.winedrop.co.uk/.
Less typical, but more complex and interesting were:
- Alvarinho Deu La Deu
- Muralhas de Moncao
Other related articles
Portugal's Vinho Verde
The Second Cambridge Tasting
Review of this event by Rachel Gordon, one half of Gastronomic Girls
Vinho Verde - website