Vinho Verde – Time To Choose Direction?

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I love Vinho Verde. A lot. The huge region has taken some big steps the last decade towards more quality thinking and it’s been a thrill to be part of that, as a consumer. Names such as Quinta do Ameal, Quinta do Feital, Quinta de Soalheiro, Aphros, Anselmo Mendes represents the top producers but there are many more just around the corner, producing some really serious stuff. This needs to be said and understood before continuing reading.

The Vinho Verde tour came to Stockholm the other day and to the list of visiting producers, a few already established on the domestic market, also sneaked in. Quinta de Soalheiro for example. Soalheiro is a top estate – some would claim the best – so that they became reference wines at the tasting is only logical. Sure, you can question whether the sub-region of Monção e Melgaço where Soalheiro are to be found, is representative for Vinho Verde. The sub-region’s climate do differ considerably from many of the other sub-regions of Vinho Verde and furthermore the Alvarinho grape reigns in Monção e Melgaço. But I can’t help but to think it’s sad that even Soalheiro’s entry wine, Allo, a blend of Alvarinho and Loureiro, were superior to several Vinho Verde wines from other sub-regions. I’m not claiming the others were bad, just that too many are, well, boring. Does it really have to be like that?

lima

Sub-Região do Lima

The 2012 Allo is such a pure wine with minerality, a dry approach and also shows some concentration. No gas though. Too a many Vinho Verde are stuck in bland, low alcohol wines with high fruit acidity which hides the remaining sweetness (if cold). Furthermore, the sulphur often becomes more evident in these wines. Then the gas….

You can charm people with the refreshing character but an aware consumer will not be impressed by the almost watery style in the long term. I’m not sure these wines are the future for Vinho Verde. Sure, the quantity wines will always continue to sell and have their audience, but the quality needs to be put in marketing focus much more than gas and freshness. It’s time for Vinho Verde to choose direction if they want to get rid of the prejudice the region after all is suffering from. Ultimately, Vinho Verde needs to raise awareness of the quality existing and work a lot more for the quality producers to receive acknowledgment and being paid properly for their products.

vv

Sub-Região do Ave

Quality do exist in the huge region. There are many fine producers which focus on grape typicity and the terroir. They are the future of Vinho Verde. They should be the headliners in order to raise the general impression and confidence of the wines of the region. Perhaps that will generate a new consumer group and also promote an aspiration towards higher quality amongst others? Nobody knows but if nothing is done nobody will ever take the region seriously enough. It calls for a shift of marketing strategy though. The question is if there’s a fundament for this in the promotion of the region and its wines? If quality is not paid for, all the farmers selling their grapes will go for the maximum yield. This calls for nutritious soils and hence fertilizing. Rich soils will result in low alcohol wines. It’s a viscious circle. Who’s prepared to break it?

Best in show

2012 Allo, Soalheiro. A blend of Alvarinho and Loureiro. Impossible not to fall in love with the Allo. It both offers a mineral feel and a slight aromatic style. For an entry wine it shows good concentration and pure mineral driven fruit. But most of all, drink this just because it’s a fun wine! Formidable.

2012 Alvarinho, Soalheiro. Grassy, herbal and expressive nose with a dash of flowers and white peaches. Mineral driven taste, with vivid fruit and dry, pure finish. Just bottled. Give it a few months to settle. Formidable.

2011 Alvarinho, Primeiras Vinhas, Soalheiro. Restrained, wet rocks and stone fruits on the nose. A class act on the palate. Mineral bite, dry, stone fruits, peaches and excellent concentration. One of the best ever. Lovely now but will age for a decade and improve. Brilliant.

2011 Alvarinho Reserva, Soalheiro. The barrique-aged Alvarinho from Soalheiro will probably divide consumers in two camps; those who doesn’t get it – why oak and Alvarinho – and then those who just love the creamy structure. I belong to the latter group and think it plays an important role in showing the potential and diversity of Vinho Verde. Formidable.

2012 Alvarinho/Trajadura, Menanços, Solar de Serrade. This is how Trajadura should be treated, as a grape for blending. A stone fruits character wine, quite restrained showing wet rocks and a good dry finish. Not an expensive wine but representing a style I think more Vinho Verdes should be able to be like, skipping the gas feel. Passable.

2012 Alvarinho, Solar de Serrade. The top wine of the estate and the 2012 is probably their best effort so far. The vines on granitic soil are now more than 15 years old and the yield is kept low. Stone fruits, jasmine, wet rocks and herbs. Dry, expressive palate with flowers, a green scent which adds depth and long pure finish. Formidable.

2010 Alvarinho, Vinha Antiga, Provam. Not for everyone but the top wine of Provam has developed gracefully. Aged for 6 months in oak, this Alvarinho has a creamier structure although still keeping the mineral acidity. Good concentration, yellow fruits and modeling clay on both the nose and on the palate. Long finale. Formidable.

2012 Alvarinho, Quinte de Gomariz. An estate worth keeping an eye on. Quite expressive style of Alvarinho mixing floral and herbal scents. Dry with still youthful fruit acidity and good mineral grip. Give it a year before drinking a Gomariz Alvarinho. They settle gracefully. Formidable.

2012 Loureiro, Quinta de Gomariz. Quite restrained Loureiro which otherwise easily becomes quite floral. Wet rocks, lime peel and herbs. A grapefruit acidity, a slight touch of sweetness and herbal finish. Serious value here. Passable.

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Feel free to comment, agree or disagree!

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  • patrickdh

    Joining these world tours does come at a price for producers and reaching out all over, maybe in the end spreading it thin. Nevertheless these are valuable programs for getting first hand feedback (such as the one published) and surely this interest will allow for everyone to get a shot a satisfying customers tastes eventually.

    • http://madaboutmadeira.org/ Niklas Jorgensen

      Hi Patrick. Last year’s visit here was not up to standard either. A few good only. People today expect quality to a much higher extent and Vinho Verde must decide if that is something they’d like to deliver in a larger scale – and promote. Otherwise I think they just have to live with a strengthened prejudice against the region.

      The question is also how many producers would consider breaking out like Qta do Ameal has, and promote their wines in other organisations/ways instead?

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.wising Michael Wising

    Spot on Niklas. Having visited the region last week, I totally agree that VV has an identity problem. The styles range from dry to sweet, no fizz to a LOT of fizz, and it is not all connected to sub-region and/or grape variety but also down to winemaking decisions. I found wines that worked for me in all different styles but obviously the dry “still” white wines that Soalheiro, Gomariz and Provam (and others) represent are and will be of most interest. Another great experience was visiting Covela, and tasting their varietal Avesso. Fantastic place and fantastic wine!

    • http://madaboutmadeira.org/ Niklas Jorgensen

      Thanks Michael. Good to hear your thoughts after the visit. And I agree on Covela! And Avesso; it’s the new Alvarinho. At least the grape has potential and obvious quality.

      The gas, fizz, is a part of Vinho Verde for many but that is not necessarily a good thing. The gas hides a lot and none of the quality wines has it. For me, Vinho Verde is all about the indigenous grapes they possess, the differing terroirs in the sub-regions and they are all still wines without gas!

      The fizzy stuff will always continue to exist but you won’t attract quality minded consumers to buy Vinho Verde unless it is clear they know what they can expect from the content (that is, fizz or not, dry or with sweetness).

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