Quinta de Covela
Visiting Vinho Verde in northern Portugal, focusing on new wave single-variety wines

The Covela story is an interesting one. It’s a beautifully situated estate on the border of the Minho and Douro, and is in the warmest part of the Vinho Verde region. The vineyard consists of two amphitheatres of vines in a sort of kidney shape, fringed by hills.  


The previous owner, Nuno Araujo, went bust with a badly timed property development on the estate, and so the bank auctioned it in 2009. Araujo's plan had been to build 12 condos, and the first three were put on the market in 2007 but didn't sell. At the time, current owners Tony Smith and Marcelo Lima bid for it and won, but in a strange twist, the bank made their own bid for Covela and acquired it, and then went bust themselves, being absorbed into a state-owned bank. Two years later the bank called Smith and Lima and asked if they were still interested.

Tony Smith (right), with Carlos Lucas 

So, when Tony Smith arrived here in 2011, Covela had been abandoned for two years. Because of this some replanting was necessary. There was quite a bit of esca (a fungal trunk disease). Half the existing vineyard was pulled out and portions were replanted and regrafted. Covela used to have 13 hectares of vines; now there are 17 hectares on the 50 hectare property. The previous regime had used biodynamics; now Tony's idea is to convert to organic certification.


Under the previous regime Covela’s wines had been 50:50 white and red. One of the changes Smith and Lima have made is shift the balance more in favour of the whites, reducing the proportion of international varieties and focusing more on the Portuguese ones. This means that in the winery some barrels will disappear, giving more cellar capacity because tanks are a more efficient use of space. Some concrete tanks have been renovated: Tony would have liked to use cement but he couldn't get the right guarantees so he had to line them with stainless steel. Ultimately, the goal is for the estate to be 80% white, with Avesso the main grape.


Covela’s intention is to make serious white Vinho Verde. 'We have to know how to take the concept of Vinho Verde,’ says Tony, ‘because this is what we should be promoting, but on the other hand we are different from the mass produced Vinho Verde.’


Originally, Covela had been planted by Joao Nicolau d'Almeida in the 1980s for Nuno Araujo. They planted Cabernet Sauvignon and international varieties. ‘At the time it was a revolution, and it belongs to the DNA of Covela,’ says Tony. ‘We have always been iconoclastic. They planted 25 varieties initially, did microvinifications, and then chose the varieties they wanted.’


Winemaking is in the hands of Rui Cunha (above), who is back in his first job at Covela. Tony asked him what he'd like to do and he said he's like to make a single variety Avesso Vinho Verde. In the first year of the new regime, 2012, there was bad weather and hail, taking out half the Chardonnay, so suddenly there was more Avesso than they could use in the trademark Covela blend (which pairs Avesso with Chardonnay), so this single variety Avesso was made and sold out in just three months.

In addition to making Avesso as a single variety, they have rented some Arinto vineyards and produce this as a single variety.



Covela Edicao Nacional Avesso 2014 Vinho Verde, Portugal
Very fine and expressive with citrus and pear nose. Lovely taut, fine, pure citrus fruit palate. Linear and nicely expressive with nice texture and freshness the key. 91/100

Rui Cunha says that this is an interesting variety that has been planted at Covela since the beginning. On the right side of the river, more Avesso is grown, while on the left, more Arinto, in this part of the Minho. It has delicacy. But it is complicated to grow: it suffers from mildew and sunburn. The yields aren't as low as with Alvarinho, but they are lower than Arinto, and by the region's standards this is a low yielding variety. It also has more susceptibility to esca.

Covela Edicao Nacional Arinto 2014 Vinho Verde, Portugal
Covela make less of this than the Avesso. Lively lemony fruit with herby, waxy notes and some grapefruit. Very stony in character with high acidity and some pithiness. Lovely. 91/100

Covela Rosé 2014 Vinho Verde, Portugal
100% Touriga Nacional. Pale pink. Lovely fresh, pure, dry, stylish and nicely textured. It's creamy with some breadth in the mouth, but is also fresh with cherry on the finish. 89/100

Covela Escolha 2013 Minho, Portugal
This was the white that made Covela famous, and it's a blend of Chardonnay and Avesso. Nice texture and purity here with a hint of lychee, nice pear fruit and some peachy richness. No barrels were used. Very pure, textured and lovely. 92/100

Covela Reserva 2013 Minho, Portugal
This is a blend of Avesso, Chardonnay and Arinto with a little bit of Viognier. Creamy and toasty with nice pear fruit and some oak (90% new, because they had to buy barrels), but it's very stylish with subtle vanilla, nice freshness and purity. 92/100

Covela Escolha Tinto 2012 Minho, Portugal
Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Touriga Nacional. Juicy and bright with fresh red cherries and plums. Good acidity.Berryish with a bit of spice. Tasty and fresh. 90/100

Covela Reserva Tinto 2012 Minho, Portugal
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Touriga Nacional. Juicy, bright and quite tarry with a spicy nose and grippy black fruits. Chunky with nice tannins and good density. This has potential. 90/100

Casal de Ventozela
Quinta de Gomariz
Cazas Novas
Quinta de Covela

See also:

Visiting Vinho Verde (2008) (series)

Wines tasted 04/15  
Find these wines with


Back to top