Today was the Vinho Verde seminar and tasting, held on a jetty overlooking the Thames, just downstream of Tower Bridge. It was my job to present the seminar.
The Vinho Verde region is a big one, and its undergoing some transition. the 20 000 hectares of vines are tended by some 20 000 growers these days. You can do the maths: it means that the average plot size is small. It used to be worse: just 20 years ago there were around 60 000 growers in the regions. Vines were commonly grown on trees (and tended with long ladders), or grown in an elevated cordon around the edge of small-holdings. Crops used to be (and in some cases still are) interplanted with vines.
Things are changing. Increasingly, vineyards actually look like vineyards, with vertical shoot positioning. Vinho Verde’s mix of interesting grape varieties, a cool, slightly damp climate, and granite soils, leads to some lovely fresh, pure flavours in the wines. We were treated today to a range of wine styles.
On one hand we have the traditional pale-coloured, slightly fizzy, high acid, low alcohol white wines. These can be really good and are just so refreshing when they are made well. On the other, we have ambitious producers making lovely unfizzy, fresh, full flavoured whites from the likes of Alvarinho, Loureiro, Avesso, Azal and Arinto. It’s interesting to see these as monovarietals. Quinta de Linhares and Quinta de Gomariz are two producers who are making exemplary ranges of monovarietals from local varieties like these.
Other wines worth a mention? Well Vinhos Norte make a very interesting Espadeiro Rose and the brilliant sparkling red Miogo Bruto Tinto. And in the seminar, we had two of my favourite wines from the region: Afros Vinhao (a fresh, intense red wine) and Soalheiro Alvarinho (textbook Alvarinho from one of the best Vinho Verde producers).
It’s a region that offers pretty good value for money, too. Try Sogrape’s Quinta de Azevedo: a good quality, typically lively Vinho Verde for just £6.99 in Waitrose and Majestic (£5.99 if you buy 2).