Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Quinta de Covela: Showcasing The Diversity Of Vinho Verde

For many people, Vinho Verde is a slightly effervescent, light, fruity, low alcohol, and sometimes mildly sweet, Portuguese white wine. It is a great summer wine, and also pairs well with seafood and plenty of other dishes. However, not all Vinho Verde is the same and it's worthy to explore what else this region has to offer. We need to get over the misconception that Vinho Verde is a singular type of wine and seek out the diversity that exists.

During my recent trip to Portugal, we visited Quinta de Covela, an estate whose history extends back to the 16th century. You can see several beautiful, granite buildings and ruins on the property which reflect this origin. The granite stone also is relevant as it is a significant difference between the Vinho Verde DOC and the Douro DOC.

Our tour of this estate was led by Paula Pereira, who works in marketing & public relations for the winery. As I recently wrote about Paula: "From the opening moments of meeting her, you couldn't help but be enamored with her bubbly enthusiasm, her sincere and infectious passion for Covela. As she led us through a wine tasting, her passion never lagged and she presented us with plenty of information about the estate, the region and the wines. It became a fully enjoyable and informative tour, and we could have easily remained there for hours chatting with Paula. My tour companions all commented on Paula's compelling personality and she was the perfect advocate for Covela."

Quinta de Covela is located on the right bank of the Douro River, in the city of Baião. The estate was once a farm and in the mid-1980s, an entrepreneur purchased the property, choosing to plant indigenous and international grapes. Wine has been produced on the estate since the 1990s, and eventually, in 2011, the property was acquired, at auction, by two friends who wanted to make it an even better vineyard and winery. As Lima Smith LDAfriends Marcelo Lima, from Brazil, and Tony Smith, from Britain, have also acquired two other Portuguese wineries, Quinta da Boavista and Quinta das Tecedeiras.

The term "Covela" refers to a "hole," and if you look down the vineyard terraces from on high, the view seems almost as if you were looking down into a hole. The estate consists of about 45 hectares, with 20 hectares of vineyards. Their vineyards were certified as organic in 2018, and they are working on the process of getting their wines certified organic as well. The microclimate of this region gives the area a Mediterranean flair.

The estate currently grows grapes including Avesso, Arinto, Touriga Nacional, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Gewurztraminer, though they are moving towards growing more indigenous grapes and less international ones. Since 2012, they have been making single varietal Vinho Verde wines from Avesso and Arinto. Annually, they produce about 150,000 liters of wine (about 200,000 bottles), and 90% of those are White wines and 10% Rosé. Over 50% of their production is exported, including to the U.S.

The Vinho Verde DOC region was demarcated in 1908 and there currently are nine subregions, including Amarante, Ave, Baião, Basto, Cávado, Lima, Monção e Melgaço, Paiva, and Sousa. The region encompasses approximately 21,000 hectares of vineyards (with 47 grape varieties), 18,000 winegrowers, and 600 bottlers. Annually, the region produces about 80 million liters of wine, with 87% White wine, 7% Red and 6% Rosé wine. I am intrigued to learn more about the specific differences between all the subregions, to better understand their different terroirs.

Besides still wines, you might not know that the Vinho Verde DOC also includes: White, Red and Rosé Sparkling Wine (designated Espumante de Vinho Verde), Vinous Spirit and Grape Marc Spirit (designated Aguardente Vínica de Vinho Verde and Aguardente Bagaceira de Vinho Verde), and even White, Red and Rosé Wine Vinegar (designated Vinagre de Vinho Verde). As it is now easy to see, the Vinho Verde DOC possesses much more diversity than many realize.

The Baião subregion borders on the Douro DOC, though the primary, and quite significant, difference is that Baião has granite rather than schist soils. The climate in this region is less temperate with colder, drier winters and hotter, drier summers, especially conducive for grapes with a longer ripening time, such as Avesso. Baião is thus well known for this grape variety, tending to produce wines that have an intense, fruity aroma and sharp acidity.

It was only natural then that the first wine we tasted was the 2017 Covela Avesso (about 8 Euros), made from 100% Avesso. The name of the grape may be translated as "inside out" or "contrary." It is a challenging grape, grown especially in Baião, as well as a few other subregions including Amarante, Paiva and Sousa. In 2010, only about 1800 acres were planted with Avesso. At Covela, Avesso is harvested at various times and not all at once. Paula stated that the Avesso is "shy on the nose," not too aromatic, and the taste "makes you salivate, yearn for food."

The aromas were subtle, with hints of peach and pear, and on the palate, the wine was crisp, dry and fruit, with bright tastes of pear, green apple and a hint of more tropical fruit. With a medium-body, the wine was certainly delicious and mouth-watering, with a pleasing and fairly long finish. Easy-drinking, this wine would be enjoyable on its own, or paired with seafood, light chicken dishes, and more. Paula recommended pairing this Avesso with cured cheese. An excellent value wine.

We moved onto the 2017 Covela Avesso Reserva (about 12 Euros), which spends about 7 months in 2nd use French oak. The aroma presented subtle spice notes, and on the palate those spice notes complemented the fruitiness of the wine. It possessed an intriguing exotic feel, the oak subtle enough so it didn't overwhelm the other flavors of wine. Paula recommended pairing this wine with something that has fat, like lamb or tuna. White wine with lamb? Yes, though it sounds unusual it can work with the proper wine.

Finally, we enjoyed the 2017 Covela Touriga Nacional Rosé (about 8-9 Euros), a non-DOC wine, which is made from 100% Touriga Nacional. They have been removing their Cabernet Sauvignon vines and replacing them with Touriga Nacional. Paula states that wine growers hate Touriga, for being too difficult, but wine makers love the grape. Touriga Nacional originated in the center of Portugal and the soils of Covela are thought to be a perfect area for growing the grape. Though Touriga Nacional is very important for making Port wine, growing well in the schist soils, the granite soils of Covela are more in line with the origins of the grape.

The Rosé possessed a very pale pink color and its aroma was almost savory, with mild notes of red fruits. On the palate, it was light and crisp, dry and elegant, with delicious notes of strawberry and cherry, as well as wisps of floral notes. Such a fine example of Rosé and definitely the style I prefer. Another excellent value wine.

The wines of Quinta de Covela were delicious, compelling and excellent values. They are imported into the U.S. and I strongly urge you to seek them out. Many thanks to Paula Pereira for providing us such a fun and informative tour.

An important takeaway is to break out of your preconceptions about Vinho Verde, seeing it as a monolithic wine style. There is plenty of diversity to be found in this region beyond the simple, effervescent wines you enjoy each summer. The Vinho Verde DOC is also a region of different terroir, with nine subregions each offering their own unique take on these wines. It is difficult to experience this diversity though as the wines are hard to find in local wine stores. Hopefully that will change as more producers in the Vinho Verde DOC highlight their diversity and export their wines to the U.S.

1 comment:

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