Malcolm Jolley enjoys an Alvarinho, just don’t call it Vinho Verde…
Apparently, I can be pretty pretentious. Or, so my wife says. This came up the other night at as we sipped on a glass of wine and made dinner. The conversation went something like this:
Me: How do you like the wine?
Her: It’s very good.
Me: You know, I’ve been to the castle where they make it.
Her: Sometimes you can be pretty…
I was going to counter the argument by saying the wine only cost $15 a bottle, but I decided to accept the typecasting and changed the subject. But, I’m back on the subject now because: a) to be fair the house on the Aveleda Estate in Northern Portugal is more of a ‘Quinta’ or grand country house than a castle, and b) whether I am or not, the wine is not pretentious at all. In fact the Aveleda Alvarinho is a crisp, easy drinking aperitif with notes of apricots and citrus and is a great example of the quiet wine revolution going on in Portugal.
I toured the Aveleda Estate, including it’s magnificent ‘English Garden’, last October as part of a small Canadian press and sommelier trip organized and hosted by the Commissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes. The theme of the trip, it was explained by the commission, was to prove that Vinho Verde was not a style of wine, but a wine region. The 2018 Aveleda Alvarinho that’s now in the LCBO’s Vintages program, is proof positive of the point. From the estate we looked out on the green mountains of Northwestern Portugal, not far from the Atlantic coast that provides rain and moderates the climate. In the glass, this wine is far from the cheap, slightly sweet, slightly fizzy Vinho Verde that many wine drinkers think of when they hear the term. In fact, the label on the bottle does not identify it as Vinho Verde, the only clue is in the stamp from the commission. It’s labelled instead as Vinho Regional Minho. The Minho is the river that forms the northern border of Portugal with Spain. On the other side, in Galicia, the Spanish have been successful recently exporting crisp mineral driven white wines made with what they call Albariño, and prices are rising accordingly. The Aveleda Alvarinho shares many of the properties of its Spanish cousins across the river, including low alcohol (12.5%) and – crucially – low sugar: just three grams per litre. I have been serving it with snacks before dinner, but the classic pairing would be seafood, or creamy, lighter things. In any event, at just $14.95 it’s certainly worth a try.
Watch for more posts on the wines of the Vinho Verde regions as winter turns to spring.