Vinho Verde Alvarinho from Portugal in your glass, a sure sign of spring

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Now it is getting more and more tempting to have a glass of white wine for an aperitif. Or maybe with the food. The days are getting longer and temperatures rise. A source for brilliant and fresh white wines that is perhaps a little unexpected is Portugal, and in Portugal for example the Vinho Verde wine region. Sven-Olof Johansson went to taste a whole series of excellent white wines from Portugal, from Anselmo Mendes and others, at Cork wine bar. Here is a selection.

Exactly two years ago, an order was placed for various white wines from Portugal. The case was delivered after a producer visit by Anselmo Mendes. You know, the man who makes Alvarinho Contacto that you can find in pretty much every Systembolaget shop in Sweden. As if it were news, everyone around the table at the tasting concluded that Portugal delivers delicious white wines. Now, the tasting of Portuguese delicacies was repeated on a cool day at the end of April. The tasting participants nodded just as approvingly as last time and expressed in unison their appreciation of the low prices.

Wine sells on brand, origin and status as much as on the taste that they deliver. Moët sells because it signals champagne. It may be that their standard cuvée is a mediocre one, but it is champagne and it can be quite important to show off. In the bar, a glass of chablis is ordered without any hassle with the quality level or the producer. The inveterate geek highlights Selosse in an ill-concealed intention to consolidate his status as a connoisseur. The choice of route is made by signals that are far from always based on taste.

But how many of you who hang out in a bar, receive guests on the pier or set the table on the terrace will think of serving a white Portuguese wine?

No, just that. Not so many.

Alexandre Carreira serving Portuguese wines at the Cork wine bar in Stockholm
Alexandre Carreira serving Portuguese wines at the Cork wine bar in Stockholm, copyright SO Johansson

I am ashamed to admit that the aha-experience two years ago resulted in one pitiful case and then the Portuguese wine fell into oblivion again. Very strange, it may seem, as for example a simple alvarinho can brilliantly replace a cheap rosé as a pre-dinner drink and a barrel-aged one works great with some grilled fish. Speaking of oak, its presence in all wines was extremely embedded and restrained. In the tasting notes, many were noted as with both fermentation and ageing on new oak, but there were no hard oak aromas. Explain this if you can. Certainly French oak and not American but still, the oak was neat and enjoyable.

Once back at the desk in the office, a new case of wine has been ordered.

Anselmo Mendes wine
Anselmo Mendes wine, copyright SO Johansson

Which wines are in the case can serve as a clue as to what was most appreciated. The first layer of bottles was Anselmo Mendes Mouros de Melgaco (~20 euro), an extremely well-made alvarinho from the Vinho Verde district in northern Portugal.

It was also difficult to resist Anselmo Mendes Parcela Unica 2018 (~35 euro). Certainly a few euro above what can be called “a budget wine”. It needed space and made you yearn for more with its developed tones, nicely integrated oak and delicious acidity. The small text box mentioned both fermentation and nine months of ageing on new oak, but it is difficult to grasp when the oak is no more prominent than a whisper.

Anselmo Mendes Alvarinho Contacto
Anselmo Mendes Alvarinho Contacto Vinho Verde, copyright BKWine Photography

In the same price range another brilliant wine from the producer Adegamae, 221 Alvarinho 2017 (~35 euro). Stellan Kramer is the importer, but unfortunately there is no info to be found about, when or how it will be launched. Nutty and delicious with hints of oxidation, strong fruit, as long as an eternity and with a lovely saltiness on the lips as a finish. From the same producer there was a steal for ~12 euro that also has no trace on Stellan Kramer’s website, Adegamae Vioshinho 2018.

The 28 wines produced once again a very satisfied tasting panel and an appreciation for the very modest prices. The undersigned has once again ordered a case and let’s hope that more people do the same. Spring is here and the glass can more than happily be filled with alvarinho.

The tasting was at Cork Vinbar (Stora Nygatan 22, Stockholm) where you can find lots of Portuguese wines.

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