Quinta do Soalheiro   
 Visiting Vinho Verde, part 1

Website: www.soalheiro.com

Arguably the top property in Vinho Verde, Soalheiro is based in Melgaço, and specialize in the Alvarinho grape variety. They own 6 hectares, and the largest vineyard is just 1 hectare. 6 hectares of vines are also contracted with small growers. We met with Luís Cerdeira, son of the founder, who works with his brother João in running the estate, and with Luís’ sister Maria, who is a vet but is also involved in the family business. 

Luis and Maria

25 years ago Luis’ father began making Alvarinho in this region: previously there had been none here. His first vineyard was planted in 1974, the year of the revolution. People here were then subsistence farmers and vineyards here were something new. Indeed, it wasn’t legal at the time to have vineyards here. The first wines released under the Soalheiro label were in 1982.

For the last two years Soalheiro have been in conversion to organics. ‘We use so many chemicals in the vineyard, we must do something to change that,’ says Luis. The soils are granitic, with medium fertility, and yields are around 6 tons/hectare.

Three different Alvarinhos are made, as well as an Espumante (sparkling wine). Some barrels are used in the winery. The grapes are whole-bunch pressed and there is no skin maceration. Most ferments are with natural yeasts, and the fermentations with these are smoother and longer.

We tasted extensively, with a vertical of the basic Soalheiro Alvarinho going back to 1995. These wines can certainly age. The top wine here is the Primeiras Vinhas, all from estate fruit fermented for longer at lower temperature. The Reserva is a little different, because of some wood ageing, but the hint of toasty oak (less than 30% of which is new) doesn’t distract from the lovely purity of the fruit.

A fourth wine is also made, but this is from the Loureiro variety grown in the Lima subdistrict, and it is a joint project with Dirk Niepoort, called Giro Sol.


Soalheiro Alvarinho 1995 Vinho Verde
Yellow/gold colour. Amazing nose showing toasty, waxy, citrussy notes. The palate is broad and fresh with a strongly herby character. Toasty and broad with hints of butter and petrol. Fresh and assertive, this is interesting stuff. 91/100

Soalheiro Alvarinho 2000 Vinho Verde
A warm year. Gold colour. Bold, aromatic, herby and rich with some peach notes. Concentrated palate with concentrated, herby, spicy notes and some tropical fruit, as well as high acidity. Bold and intense, and still fresh at 8 years old. 88/100

Soalheiro Alvarinho 2002 Vinho Verde
Cool year. Yellow/gold colour. Lively, herby, citrusy nose with some subtle toasty notes and delicate waxy herbiness. The palate is rounded, a bit nutty and has some toasty notes, as well as bright pear and citrus fruit. 90/100

Soalheiro Alvarinho 2003 Vinho Verde
Deep yellow/gold. Toasty, herby tropical fruit nose. The palate is bold and intense with broad, rich, nutty fruit. Finished a bit shorter than the 2002, but is tasty and intense. 88/100

Soalheiro Alvarinho 2006 Vinho Verde
Yellow colour. Lovely minerally, citrusy nose. The palate is lively and bright with fresh herbiness and lovely precision and focus. Nice depth of pure, minerally fruit here. 90/100

Soalheiro Alvarinho 2007 Vinho Verde
Very fresh, aromatic, bright and quite estery on the nose, showing citrus and peach fruit as well as minerals. The palate is pure and focused with nice citrussy precision and some pear and peach richness. Lovely. 91/100

Giro Sol Loureiro 2007 Vinho Verde
Very focused, bright minerally nose. Amazingly vivid bright, fruity palate with lovely focused peach, apricot and pear flavours and brilliant transparency. The high acidity is offset by 12 g/litre residual sugar. Lovely wine, full of interest. 91/100

Soalheiro Primeras Vinhas Alvarinho 2007 Vinho Verde
This took four months to ferment, using natural yeasts. Intense, herby, fresh nose is powerful, rich and intense. The palate is herby and spicy with lovely concentration and depth, as well as nice texture: rounded with a savoury edge. Bold and quite complex, this is a substantial white wine of real appeal. 92/100

Quinta de Soalheiro  Alvarinho Reserva 2006
Yellow colour. Powerful nose of wax, herbs, nuts, citrus and grapefruit: savoury and intense. The palate is broad and nutty with just a hint of toasty oak. It’s powerful, intense and concentrated with spice, nuts and peach as well as a fresh citrus edge. Serious. 92/100

Quinta de Soalheiro  Alvarinho Reserva 2007 (barrel sample)
Vivid, toasty, rich and aromatic with fresh citrus fruit and herb notes. Amazing marriage of ripe peachy fruit and oak, while retaining citrus freshness. A lovely wine. 92–94/100

A short film of the visit:


Wines tasted as 11/08  
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