Dona Paterna Alvarinho 2010

Dona Paterna Alvarinho 2010

Dona Paterna Alvarinho 2010

Vinho Verde is something of a rare treat here in Australia, and I was fond of it before I ever tasted it, based purely on an article I read in an in-flight magazine on a TAP Portugal flight.  These days if I come across it by the glass, it’s always a good start at a restaurant, as was the case with this Dona Paterna Alvarinho 2010.

This is actually the second Vinho Verde I’ve covered, with the first being from Anselmo Mendes back in February.  I covered the basics, in that it’s a wine region in the north of Portugal with a maritime climate.  At one point red and white wine were produced in equal measure, but these days the trade is dominated by white wines made largely from Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura, at times with a slight spritz.

What I didn’t mention is that the region is divided into nine subregions, and this wine is from the Monção e Melgaço subregion.  It is the northernmost of the subregions, and is set in from the coast, mitigating the Atlantic influence.  As a result, the climate is more continental, with cold winters of average rainfall and hot, dry summers. The soils are granitic with areas of well drained shingle.  The area is best known for Alvarinho, though I have found conflicting sources as to the permissibility of other white varieties.  Wines are differentiated from neighbouring subregions by relatively high levels of alcohol up to 13%, low yields and slightly higher prices.

I’ve said that I like Vinho Verde but I haven’t really said why.  Part of the answer is in the glass, in that it’s a light, refreshing style of wine that can be crisp and fruity at the same time, and the spritz you sometimes encounter gives it a gentle lift.  Of course much of the reason is in my head, in that I associate it with summer and lazy lunches overlooking the sea.  Also, the memory of reading about it on a flight so many years ago has remained with me as a reminder of how even then I enjoyed learning about new regions and wines.

Alvarinho, or Albariño as it is known more commonly outside of Portugal, is an Iberian grape also associated with Rias Baixas and we previously encountered it in the form of the Bodega Castro Martin Aobre Lias.  As I mentioned then, it is a thick skinned and aromatic white grape, known for producing good levels of acid, alcohol and flavour.  According to Wine Grapes, it is believed to be quite an old variety, and with Amaral is the parent of Caíño Blanco.  However, it has been shown to be unrelated to Albarín Blanco and Alfrochiero (Albarín Negro).

Dona Paterna was founded in 1990 by the Codesso family who had been growing Alvarinho in the region since 1974.  They are distributed by Vinalda (among others), but beyond that I have had a difficult time digging up any further information.  In addition to this wine, they also produce a Reserva Albarinho.  This wine was made with 12-24 hours of skin contact after crushing, and 20% of the blend saw time in old French oak with lees stirring.

In the glass this wine is clear and bright, with a pale lemon colour and thick slow legs.  On the nose it’s clean, with medium minus intensity (though it was served very cold) and a developing character with notes of lemon custard, melon, persimmon, and cinnamon toast.  On the palate it’s dry, with high acidity, medium body, medium intensity, medium alcohol, and medium length.  There are notes of lemon peel, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and an almost salty, slightly metallic finish.

This wine is of good quality.  It’s a bit sharp at the end but otherwise on the nose and palate it has a nice flavour profile with tart fruit dominating with a hint of sweetness on the nose.  Young and meant to be drunk as such, it would be good with something salty on a hot day.

Pin in the map is approximate due to a lack of information about the producer.

Anselmo Mendes Muros Antigos Vinho Verde Escolha 2010

Origin: ,

Colour and type: ,

Anselmo Mendes Muros Antigos Vinho Verde Escolha 2010

Anselmo Mendes Muros Antigos Vinho Verde Escolha 2010

I have a bottle of Portuguese white in the fridge which I had anticipated opening later this week, so as to correct the neglect of Portugal in this blog.  However, while out for lunch, there was this wine by the glass, so how could I say no.  The Anselmo Mendes Muros Antigos Vinho Verde Escolha 2010 was on offer today, and it was a lovely drop.

Vinho Verde is a wine region that constitutes the northwest of Portugal.  It’s actually quite a large region, essentially from Porto to the Douro region as recently discussed, and to the north until you hit Spain.  It borders the Atlantic, so there is a large maritime influence, and grape growing dominates the region.

Vinho Verde can be translated as “green wine” though I’m never really been clear if that refers to it being something to be drunk young or if the pale gold has particularly green highlights.  It used to be that as much red was produced as white, but the share of red is declining and little is exported.  The white is typically made from Alvarinho, Loureiro, and Trajadura, and is generally light in alcohol.  Often it undergoes malolactic fermentation which gives it a slight fizz.

Normally I would try to link to the producer’s site, but Google is telling me that it may host malware, so I won’t for now.  The producer is Anselmo Mendes, one of the best known and respected producers in the region.  He does a wide range of Vinho Verdes based on Alvarinho and Loureiro, with this being from the former latter grape (I believed but couldn’t see any indication on the bottle – found out months later in retrospect I had been wrong).

This wine in particular was pale lemon, with crisp lime and blossom on the nose, lime on the palate but with some tropical fruit, and a hint of melon. No spritz, which is common in Vinho Verde, but a bit of acid zing. It had a tart lime finish but was somewhat short. Good quality, but perhaps not as fresh as it would have been a year ago.


Niepoort Douro Vertente 2006

Niepoort Vertente Douro 2006

Niepoort Vertente Douro 2006

I’ve not written a single thing about Portugal, and that’s just not right.  It used to be that you couldn’t mention Portugal without it immediately being assumed that Port was the next subject, but I think that’s been changing over the last decade or so for a few reasons.  First off, I think fortified wine is by and large is somewhat out of fashion.  Now that’s a broad statement, so let me dig down a bit.  There are some fortified wines that are borderline trendy – Sherry for instance is trending toward cool in the right context, that is with tapas.  And it’s good Sherry – not the old cream stuff that still has a certain following among an aging demographic.  However, that’s very context specific.  If you then turn your attention to Madiera, I think you’re almost as likely to conjure up images of Cristiano Ronaldo as you are a fortified wine.  And as for Port, I just don’t see it being drunk so much.  Something of a shame, but fashions come and go, and I’m sure it will have a resurgence at some point.

However, where Port is out of fashion to some extent, Portuguese table wine is having a Renaissance.  Much of it is down to the Douro boys, a group of innovative winemakers who have had some great successes, first in making some excellent wine, but at least as importantly in getting their story out and getting glasses of Portuguese wine into people’s hands.  They represent a new face to Portuguese wine, with a more modern style versus what is often thought of as a very rustic style of winemaking.

The best known to me is a gentleman who goes by the name Dirk Niepoort.  Much of the wine trade in Portugal, in particular the Port trade, was dominated by foreign traders, primarily English I believe, but certainly some Dutch as well.  The Niepoort family is obvious the latter.  They arrived in Portugal sometime in the 19th century and are now on their 5th generation, having built up quite business.  They now have a broad offering of wines, both fortified and not, with tonight’s bottle being table wine.

Portugal is blessed with a handful of wine regions for a small country, from the light whites of Vinho Verde to the concentrated red styles of the Douro which I’m enjoying this evening.  The river Douro defines, and gives its name to, the region.  The river ends at the sea in the city of Porto, but the wine region doesn’t start until you go up river perhaps 80km.  Continuing through the Douro region, the river has it’s start in Spain where it is known as Duero and it is the core of several wine regions there as well.

The Douro is best know for fortified wine, Port, production and while there are over a hundred varieties officially permitted, the vast majority of grapes grown are red, and the most highly regarded are Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (also known as Tempranillo).  Vineyards in the Douro were traditionally field blends, with different varieties within the same block or sometimes row, but I would imagine that has been changing over the last decade as reform and innovation has come into play.  Still wines have become increasingly important to the region, and with that some level of varietal specificity.  However, blending is certainly still the norm for Niepoort table wines.

This wine, the Niepoort Douro Vertente 2006 is a blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Touriga Nacional and others.  It’s a lovely wine, and a real credit to the region.  It’s very dark in the glass, with an intense fruity and peppery nose.  The palate is fruity without being sweet, though there is a bit of raisin flavour that brings to mind Port – that could just be in my head though and not in the glass.  Likewise, with Portuguese wine I want to make a comment about it being rustic, but that’s not actually the case.  It’s elegant with long length.

To make amends for neglecting Portugal so badly, I’ll be having another of their wines this coming week – a white I believe.  Also, I’m hoping to add a map feature with pushpins as to the origin of each wine I’ve tasted.  That should make clear which regions have been feeling the love and which haven’t.