Conceito Vinho Branco 2008

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Portugal is only starting to become known for its dry wines. The most recognizable of these are the dry reds from producers like Quinta do Crasto, which is certainly making some very good wines. The other producers we’ve seen in both Canada and the U.S. market have been variable in quality, ranging from low to mid range in price point. Many of these wines are over oaked or jammy and none too exciting.

After visiting Portugal last year (thanks Icelandic volcano) and tasting many of the country’s dry and fortified wines, I came to realize that a whole lot more is going on there than most in North America realize. The most exciting dry wines I tasted were made in a much more elegant and sophisticated style than what we tend to see over here, particularly the outstanding dry reds of Niepoort, which was perhaps the most exciting producer I encountered in my time in both Portugal and Spain (and one I really need to write about in more detail at some point).

I was also quite charmed by a number of the white wines I tasted in Portugal, from very well made and balanced Alvarinhos that shame the stuff we see here to more heady and sophisticated whites. However, it was not until I opened a bottle of the new producer Conceito’s white blend that I realized how high quality white wines from the Douro could be.

Rediscovering Terroir in the Douro

Conceito is Portuguese for concept, which is more than just clever marketing for a country that is mostly devoid of clever marketing. Conceito is a winery that wants to rediscover the concepts of the Douro valley by rediscovering its various terroirs and challenging the notion that it is a singular region (a ‘concept’ that port has helped to become predominant). Winemaker Rita Ferriera is bold in her vision to expose not only these terroirs but also to highlight how good some of the dozens of indigenous grapes can be. She makes a striking and exciting red wine from Bastardo, for example. Conceito makes wines in the eastern Douro, which has a distinctly different climate (far more arid) from the lower Douro.

This white blend is made from four varieties of indigenous grapes: Rabigato, Codega, Viosinho, and Gouveio. The vines are 80 years old and everything is dry farmed. Rabigato is known to be a low quality and high yielding grape (so it is all the more amazing what Ms. Ferriera has done with it), while Codega is a blending grape traditionally used in Madeira. Viosinho is a high acid grape used in blending white port (along with all the other varieties listed here) and is known to bring orchard fruit and floral qualities into the mix. Gouveio is similar to Verdelho and offers high acid and citrus characteristics but can produce good balance between sugar and acid. Gouveio is also frequently used in Portugal’s sparkling wines.

Superlative White Wine

Conceito’s Vinho Branco is a show stopper. I was frankly floored when tasting this as it approximated a very good white Bordeaux in quality and makeup. The wine’s creamy density finds its home perfectly within a superbly balanced high acid structure with extremely expressive citrus and floral notes. There are certainly some apricot pith notes in this wine that add to the complexity of its very full bodied palate. Texture is often what separates great wine from good wine and, for my palate, Conceito’s Vinho Branco has a perfect textural balance between voluptuous silkiness and mouthwatering crispness.

It is frankly revelatory that white wine this good is being made in the Douro and I urge any forward thinking agency to pick this winery up and bring it into the province. The prices are superb, the quality unmatched and the labels and marketing well suited to the North American market. You can find these wines right now in some U.S. states and in the UK.

Excellent and Highly Recommended Value
24 euros in Oporto, Portugal (at an amazing bottleshop that I will share with anyone traveling there)


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