Spotlight on Portuguese Dry Wine: Quinta do Ameal Eschola Branco 2004
As I mentioned earlier in this spotlight, white wine of merit is somewhat of a rarity in Portugal. In particular, Vinho Verde (aka Minho), a wine region north of Oporto, is known to produce mostly quaffing whites with no real interest beyond a hot day and a low price. Quinta do Ameal, however, has taken upon itself to show how the indigenous variety Loureiro can actually make serious wine.
Vinho Verde is synonymous with high acidity, watery whites and fairly rustic reds. The region produces ⅙ of Portugal’s wines and accordingly has quite high yields. The climate is damp, with high malic acid and low natural grape sugar. The majority of white wines are actually made from Alvarinho (aka Albarino) but it can also be blended with other indigenous grapes including Loureiro.
Loureiro is an aromatic grape usually used in blends, however it has naturally high acidity and low alcohol and thrives particularly well in the cooler parts of Minho. Often the yields are high with this grapes, but Ameal crops it at yields far lower than normal at 5 tons/hectare in order to release its savory aromas and deeper concentration of flavours and make it suitable for a 100% varietal wine.
Ameal does a 48 hour cold soak and ferments and ages in oak.
This is intriguing wine that is well made and also quite delicious. It pours somewhat greenish but darker than normal for Vinho Verde. However, clearly this grape does not have a lot of colour. The nose proffers reasonably dense oak, but it also has intriguing aromas of bitter citrus rind, nuts and strange flowers/savory herbs.
The relatively high acid palate is both bright and savory: minerals, bitter citrus rind, and flowers again. An up front wine that combines both richness and fresh easy approachability so long as you are amenable to the unique flavour profile.
There is a bit of greenness here (underripeness is a perennial problem in Vinho Verde) but it is not offensive. Rather it adds interest and spark. Quite a fascinating wine and absolutely worth checking out. This is definitely wine geek wine, but with a broad appeal. Who’s ever had 100% Loureiro before?
$41 at Everything Wine