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Curiosity and a will to constantly keep on improving. That’s my impression of Quinta de Gomariz while walking around the winery with the consulting winemaker, António Sousa. I’ve been fortunate to be able to follow the producer closely the last two years and for me, Quinta de Gomariz is perhaps the most obvious evidence, what is happening in the Vinho Verde region – and how far you can reach in just a few years if the set goal is quality.
Pruning at Gomariz
António Sousa loves the challenge. It doesn’t take many minutes to understand that. Besides tasting the more well-known grapes for the region – like Loureiro and Alvarinho – António also pours me several of his experiments which aren’t precisely typical for the region. Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon blanc for example.
Sub-Região do Ave
It’s mid-March and António is finalizing the blends of the 2011 vintage. He hasn’t decided yet, on the proportions of the Grande Escolha and pours me the two he currently are chosing between. There’s a difference in style. One is more towards the mineral and restrained fruit style, while the second is leaning to a grassy, green feel, more expressive simply. I know which one I would opt for although António isn’t sure yet, if these are the last two blends he is chosing between. Finding the right balance is difficult I realize and it takes a skilled palate and winemaker to create such well-made wines as is the fact at Quinta de Gomariz.
The winery hasn’t celebrated a decade yet, having bottled their first wines in 2005. Still, the success was a fact right from the start. Never resting and feeling satisfied what is accomplished so far, keeps the estate moving to even higher standards. You can’t blaim Quinta de Gomariz for being crowd-pleasers in the sense just going for what people recognize. Loureiro, Vinhão, Avesso, Espadeiro or Padeiro are bottled proof of that. Outside of Portugal few knows about these indigenous grapes, except Alvarinho, so besides struggling with the Vinho Verde prejudice amongst consumers, they also need to convince them about grapes no-one ever heard of.
It is easy to be convinced. Once you’ve tasted a Gomariz bottle that is. But it’s herein the challenge lies; not only for Gomariz but for all serious producers in the region. To convince importers that this is good stuff and to make sure they, in their turn, can persuade their clients to promote it to the end user. Not all Vinho Verde is for immediate consumption you know, but sadly this is how it is being promoted on an official level.
Vítor Mendes to the left (Marketing), António Sousa to the right (Winemaking)
I am surprised by the Sauvignon blanc. It clearly fits in the Sub-Região do Ave where Gomariz is to be found. But it doesn’t reach the quality of the Alvarinho or my new favorite, Avesso. Both are made in a more concentrated style without being heavy or lacking the refreshing character. Avesso is a grape with high potential and one I would like to see being promoted more intensely by the region. The Gomariz Avesso reaches 13 per cent and has a gorgeous pear like fruit with classy acidity. A bit spicy and with a fine mineral feel. Can and should be kept a year to integrate.
While walking the cellar, António shows me another experiment of his. Loureiro fermented the Cuve Close way, just like a Moscato d’Asti. The fermentation in closed tanks has accentuated the floral caharcter of Loureiro but also the wet rocks are more evident. A real seducer with its low alcohol, tickling acidity and slightly sweet fruit. This should be able to give the Italians a serious fight.
We’re comparing the two rosé wines as well in 2011, the Espadeiro and the Padeiro. Two well-made wines with a touch of sweetness to balance the high acidity. I’m leaning towards the Espadeiro grape, finding it more nuanced. The Padeiro has some more body, darker fruit and butterscotch but lesser acidity. Two grapes I hope we will see more of outside of Portugal. Quite personal and totally free from the tutti frutti scents.
We pass by a Trajadura tank. António explains this is to be used as a sparkling experiment. The grape has a high green acidity which fits well in sparkling wines. On its own it can be a bit difficult though, up in Vinho Verde. Lots of green sour apples, a herbal touch and again the wet rocks. Should work well as a Blanc de blancs alternative. To understand the potential of the sparkling wines of the region, try finding Quinta do Ameal’s bottling. Arinto with a touch of Loureiro. Several years on its lees. Pretty amazing stuff.
Perhaps not for the untrained palate, Vinhão is still a must try. Quinta de Gomariz makes one of the best in the whole region and the 2011 are without doubt the best one so far. Traditionally served in china for the impressive color, it is also found as a noble grape called Sousão in the Douro region. Mostly used for the color in Port though, it is the red wine grape in Vinho Verde. With impenetrable color, red sour cherries, minerals and a herbal, almost medicinal character, it is an awesome pairing with hearty dishes. But don’t wear a white shirt while sipping this one. I’d love to promote the Vinhão but do fear this is simply too difficult to market outside of the region. Please tell me I am wrong.
Some regards the blend, the Grande Escolha, as the best wine of the estate. I am boring in that sense and go for the Alvarinho. At Gomariz, it comes in a floral, mineral driven and stone fruits style. Expressive but at the same time restrained. Good concentration, clean taste, wet rocks and pear fruit. Love that slight touch of fennel and the faintest hint of tropical fruits. Give it a year to rest if you’re buying the latest vintage. Hard to find a buy competing with this one, quality price ratio speaking that is.
The Loureiro is an uncomplicated wine; easy to like and with a touch of sweetness, it works well with spicy dishes or just for sipping. The serious wine drinker would perhaps have opinions on the residual sugar but then again, take this wine for what it is and what it aims for. For the price it is amazing quality and clean floral fruit. The 2011 is showing well and feels more ripe in its fruit compared to the previous vintage.
Mid-March and already 23-24 C!
Vinho Verde, or Minho, is a huge region representing around a fifth of all Portuguese wine. Much is still on a quantity level, but there is no doubt it is also the region seeing a quality boom that hopefully will lead to more quintas producing their own wine – and not only selling their grapes at too low prices to the big players. Vinho Verde is worth a re-visit by every winelover. Forget about all you thought you knew about the region, throw away the prejudiced thoughts and pick up a Quinta de Gomariz, be it a Loureiro, Avesso, Alvarinho or perhaps an Espadeiro rosé. You only need one bottle to change your mind and fall in love. At least I did!
The Watch Dog at Gomariz. Scary, huh?
Do you want to try any of the Quinta de Gomariz wines? Check out Vinopedia here. Retailer or importer? Feel free to tell us if you’re offering the Quinta’s wines!
Like to read more about the region? Here’s my visit at Quinta do Ameal.
Disclaimer. I’m a friend of Vítor Mendes, employed by Gomariz. I have also received samples of the wines when a new vintage has been released. Yet I have no problems judging the wines and praising them for the quality they possess. Vítor appreciates honesty and we have had long discussions on what can be improved and developed further at the estate.