The SOMM Journal

April / May 2016

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Page 61 of 108

{ }  61 ESCHEWING THE USUAL ROSÉ ROUNDUP FOR a more inspired "green" look at wine, we sampled 11 Vinho Verde wines from Portugal's verdant northwest nook, inspired by both the season and a recent trip to the region. One of the oldest demarcated regions in Portugal (1908), the area is responsible for 15% of the winemaking in the country. While these wines are mainly known for their effer - vescent fizz, producers in recent years have embraced investigational winemaking, bringing out single varieties that were once only blending partners, and finding ways to give more weight and texture to Alvarinho, the Portuguese version of Albariño. With lees treat - ment and barrel fermenting, winemakers are aspiring to more gastronomic wines. For the first time, there's a consciousness about attaching different varieties to the terroirs (granite- based with some shale) and subzones, showing that Vinho Verde isn't a wash of patio-pleasing quaffers. To help evaluate the new wave of wines, Mike Madrigale enlisted Bryan Garcia from Grand Cru Selections, Dean Fuerth, Wine Director from Betony, and Taylor Sorenson from Polaner Selections. This time, the wines were tasted double-blind, the theme becoming known only partway through. All bottles were from the 2014 vintage. We began with the lighter Brancos and progressed through single- varieties, saving Alvarinho—the variety most malleable to experimentation—toward the end. Overall, the panel didn't find the quality of wines to be of restaurant-list quality. Though Mike has the Reguiero Reserva Alvarinho on his list at Bar Boulud, he said, "Vinho Verde is not something I focus on buying for the restaurant . . . It's really [about] what can break through the barrier of French, Italian and American wine." Brian agreed: "These wines are not built for res - taurants of quality level even close to Boulud," but, in the case of entry-level wines with a good showing, he advised, "I'd say if you're looking for a wine and you're in a market that's underserved, look up this producer, and see what higher levels he produces." The panel agreed though it was a lower-end retail wine, the Aveleda succeeded in staying true to its The panel picked three they thought reflected winemaking with an intention— whether that was to be a simple quaff (Aveleda) or achieving more weight and texture, as in the Reguiero Reserva. BEST IN SHOW Reguiero Reserva Alvarinho ($15.99) Green without having a raw or under-ripe fruit character ; textured and weighty, but not fruity or cloying. NLC Quinta da Lixa Aromas das Castas, Alvarinho and Trajadura ($9.99) Canned pineapple, ripe cantaloupe, peach pit; lemony-lime, fruity, musky melon; good, soft, clean acid. WINE IN MOTION Quinta da Aveleda Branco, Loureiro and Alvarinho ($7.99) "As if someone got a glass, went to the ocean and put lemon and lime in it." Inexpensive, simple and meant to please white wine drinkers who don't want oak or fruit. AVELEDA

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