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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Cambridge Tasting - Vinho Verde

A tasting of a range of Portuguese Vinho Verde wines held at Cambridge Wine Merchants

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.

Recommended wines
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

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