Recently in Millesime Bio (the world’s largest organic wine fair) in Montpellier, I overheard a conversation between a visitor and a Portuguese wine producer. After tasting some of the impressive wines which were mostly clean and showing pure fruit characters, the visitor challenged the producer by asking, “with a wine [pure] like this, where is the Portuguese ‘terroir’?”
The question is not an easy one. Famous for its Port wine and infamous for many cheap and cheerful Rosés, Portugal wine industry have undergone some dramatic transformations in the last few decades. Huge funding had been injected into many different regions, which helped to improve winemaking techniques, equipment and vineyard management.
But the Portuguese, long been criticised by some marketing experts for their unpronounceable and difficult-to-sell grape varieties, continue to guard and cherish their native varieties and slowly but surely prove to the world that you don’t always need Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc to win sales.
Focusing on what you have, embracing new technology as well as protecting ancient traditions, one can make impressive wines and proudly show the ‘terroir’.
The Portuguese are the guardian of their native grapes
During my short stay in Montpellier, I thoroughly enjoyed trying the below Portuguese organic ‘terroir’ wines.
Made by a group of four organic wine producers in Vinho Verde region in the northern part of Portugal, Mica is their flagship wine made by a blend of Loureiro and some Azal and Trajadura. “Loureiro” means “laurel” and typically shows aromas reminiscent of laurel flowers, orange blossoms, apple and peach. It has refreshing acidity balanced by some residual sugar (19 g/l).
I asked the producer Antonio Sousa Pereira if Mica is always off-dry? The answer was, “it depends”.
He told me that 2017 was a very dry year in the region and Loureiro had lots of sugar accumulated by the time of harvest.
Every year, Mica has different style ranging from bone dry to off-dry. They just let the nature take its course.
A blend of 80% Loureiro and 20% Vinhão made by this biodynamic producer. This is not your usual Vinho Verde! It’s quirky but it’s also ‘traditional’.
Using the ancient method of blending white and red grapes, fermented dry with ambient yeast in clay amphora, the wine shows some funky aromas initially, leading to fresh cranberries and herbaceous and earthy notes.
I also admire their wine label which shows a Faun (a mythological half human–half goat creature) enjoying some music whilst the vines and grape juice are working hard together to produce delicious wines.