many flavours of Alvarinho: a masterclass with
Quinta do Soalheiro
Soalheiro is located in Melgaço in the
far north east of Portugal, right at the top of Vinho Verde country.
They were an early adopter of alvarinho, planting the first
vines in 1974. Fifty years ago, most vinho verde was red, and
alvarinho is modern in vinho verde terms, although it's now one of the
main grapes alongside Arinto, Loureiro, and the less common Pedernã, Avesso,
Azal, and Trajadura.
now make 10 different alvarinhos, all avoiding skin
contact, and, on the evidence of this tasting (led by Luis Cerdeira,
winemaker and CEO of Quinta do Soalheiro), all remarkably
distinctive. Indeed, this was a particularly interesting
tasting that reset my view of alvarinho. Previously, I'd thought of it
as making an enjoyable light wine that didn't get in the way of
shellfish and other seafood. The difference betwen these
wines was remarkable.
A large proportion of the vineyards
used in the Soalheiro Clássico comes from Quinta de Soalheiro
where the grapes are grown organically, and the biodiversity of fauna
and flora is protected. The Soalheiro Terramatter and the Soalheiro
Nature are produced exclusively from these organic vines.
Quinta de Soalheiro Vinho Verde Alvarinho Espumante Bruto
Charming nose: white flowers, green fruit and the slightest hint of
Super palate. Lots of bright, fresh alvarinho character. Lovely
freshness on the palate.
Such an easily drinkable fizz. 89/100
Quinta de Soalheiro Soalheiro Classico
This is the classic, base level Vinho Verde from Soalheiro: 100%
alvarinho of course.
Charming nose, with almond, olive brine, some minerality, frangipane,
honeysuckle and tropical fruit.
Gorgeous palate. So full of flavour and character. Feels like it's
quite low acidity. Very clean. 92/100
2017 Quinta de Soalheiro Alvarinho Granit
A much more austere nose than the classic vinho verde: greener, with
less tropical fruit.
Considering that this is also 100% alvarinho, the difference is
remarkable on the palate.
This is much lighter, and has much more focus. It has virtually none of
the aromatics of the 2018 classic, but much more minerality. 89/100
2017 Quinta de Soalheiro Vinho Verde
From old vines planted in 1974.
A very nutty nose with some oak, but well integrated.
Quite a weighty, full mouthfeel. A bit more structure from the oak and
more concentrated fruit. 90/100
2017 Quinta de Soalheiro Alvarinho
100% alvarinho again. Partly fermented in concrete eggs (which do their
own light batonnage) and partly in chestnut barrels. Bottled unfiltered
(the back of the bottle even has the recommendation to "homegenise the
bottle before drinking")
Very attractive aromatics on the nose. Almost hints of grape juice.
Really interesting palate. Quite citrussy. Very precise and elegant.
2017 Quinta de Soalheiro Alvarinho Nature
Malolactic fermentation. Bottled unfiltered without sulphites.
A markedly more golden colour and deeper than the other soalheiro
Lactic on the nose, with some honey, and even a touch of caramel.
Very interesting palate. Quite a rich texture. Probably needs food to
make it shine. 88/100
And then onto a couple of mature examples, which blew out of the water
any notions that vinho verde and/or alvarinho do not age.
Quinta de Soalheiro Alvarinho Soalheiro Classico
Good fruit and aromatics on the nose. Tropical fruit and honeysuckle.
Lovely palate. Very similar to the 2018, but it's evolved nicely with
its edges taken off. 93/100
2006 Quinta de
Soalheiro Vinho Verde Soalheiro
This was the first vintage of this old vines cuvée.
Really interesting nose - all nicely integrated.
Not really showing its age at all. This is really lovely. Rich and
fresh at the same time. 93/100
And finally a taste of a red vinho verde from Soalheiro
2015 Quinta de
An unusual blend of 70% vinhao, 15% alvarinho and 15% pinot noir, a
which is aged in new barriques. The pinot noir is blended in after
On the nose there are red fruits, a bit of forest mud, and then some
intense black fruit comes along.
High acidity on the palate. Fresh, light. Maybe not as much fun as some
vinhao - possibly the pinot noir is making it feel more serious. 87/100