I’m a big fan of the green Azal, a grape which perhaps has its prime in the Basto sub-region of Vinho Verde. Basto is the most eastern of all sub-regions and the protected landscape with really hot summers compensates for cold winters. Azal shows lots of green apple peel notes and on the palate it almost feels like wines fermented on the skins. The greenness is probably more related to the late ripening of Azal and since the winter and spring has a grip of the sub-region you’re dependent on a fine summer and fall. Azal is perhaps not the new Alvarinho of Vinho Verde but one you should try for its unique freshness.
In Basto you’ll also find some varieties used for the region’s red wine, Vinhão for example, the one which goes under the name of Sousão in the Douro. But also varieties such as Espadeiro and Rabo-de-Anho. Names few have ever heard of. Hence it is only logical to find one of Dirk Niepoort’s Projectos here, in Basto.
I’m crazy about the guy’s different projects around Portugal as they always aim to highlight something worthy of our attention, stuff we’ve forgotten about or never heard of. In Portugal that’s of course easy with all the hundreds of indigenous varieties around the country, but it’s not enough settling with a Projectos being rare. The reason is of course also to show the potential, something which the skilled Niepoort and his team are great at. When I heard about the Projectos from the sub-region of Basto – 1,100 bottles of the 2013 Verde Tinto – I tracked down a few of them directly. A blend of equal parts Vinhão and a mix of other indigenous varieties. Guessing that’s a way to write we don’t know considering the vines are between 60 and 80 years old. The vines are furthermore trellised on high pergolas, a system which goes under the name of Vinha de Enforcado in the region.
2013 Verde Tinto, Projectos, Niepoort
As always with Vinhão…a lot of color. Don’t wear a white shirt when drinking the stuff. The nose is slightly funky, in a cool way, robust with dark cherries, leather, herbs and with air an inviting floral scent. On the palate a robust impression, good acidity grip, dry, sour cherries, humus and some tannins. Despite only 10.5 percent the wine has some body and impressive length. The 2013 is in a perfect drinking window right now. I suspect an unprepared nose and palate would react on this one, but after the initial surprise also find it quite fascinating. And above all, realize just how good this darling handles fat food.
Yet a fine Niepoort Projectos. Do taste this!
The Virtuoso Rating: 87 points
Find the wine? Use wine-searcher to locate it. At Portuguese wine-shops it retails at less than 10 euros. Yet a crazy bargain from the country who invented great buys.