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Brian Elliott: Vinho Verde and the secret of eternal youth

Vinho Verde has yet more surprises in store suggests Scotland on Sunday’s wine columnist Brian Elliott.

Published: August 31, 2016
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When it comes to re-inventing oneself, few can rival Vinho Verde. Without compromising its wines’ traditional lightness and freshness, the complexity and acidity has been increased while levels of residual sugar and carbonation have come down.

For a great value example of the point, turn to Winemaker’s Selection Vinho Verde (£5 at Sainsbury’s) and savour the lemon acidity and saline edge that it uses to underpin the region’s classic red apple fruit.

Stage 2 of the region’s strategy seems to be a focus on local single variety wines such as alvarinho (“green Spain’s” signature grape in Portuguese), the acidity-centred arinto and denser avesso.

Majestic has examples of the first two, 2015 Casal de Ventozela Alvarinho (currently £8.99) has that classic lively white plum and melon substance but combines it with a pithy savoury edge and floral suggestions of cloves and nectarines.

By contrast, the aromatic and sherbet lemon influenced 2015 Casal de Ventozela Vinho Verde (£6.99 until 24 October) has pear, pineapple and white peach fruit coupled with touches of clove and a persistent prickle of apple-based acidity.

But for what will come next we should look, as ever, to the young. When I was last in the region, four young producers known as Vinho Verde Young Projects impressed me. It is a pleasure then to top today’s selection with one of their wines – the crisp and complex 2015 Cazas Novas Avesso (£7.25 at The Wine Society). It skilfully integrates lime, tangerine and white plum fruit with measured acidity and a slowly ascending weightiness.

One member of the Young Projects group – Joana Santiago, pictured below with her fellow members – has an equally impressive alvarinho which Amaywines is about to start importing. 2015 Quinta de Santiago Alvarinho (no price yet) performs the magic trick of achieving both delicacy and texture but, better still, also delivers beautiful greengage and ripe tangerine fruit supercharged with zesty lime acidity.

2014 Percheron Old Vine Cinsault

Western Cape, South Africa, 13 per cent
Excellent wine is now being produced in South Africa from this (once) unfashionable variety that begat pinotage – with the aid of pinot noir. Enjoy, for instance, the soft and medium-bodied raspberry and redcurrant fruit on display along with sharp acidity, limited tannin and a background of vanilla, cloves and coffee.
£5.95 at Drinkmonger

Glasgow speakeasy The Absent Ear launches Try and Test Tuesdays - with discounted cocktails

2014 New Hall Bacchus Reserve

Essex, England, 10.5 per cent
Well made English wine is seldom cheap but this example fully justifies digging a tad deeper. It has gentle red apple and quince fruit – with a suggestion of peach – and wraps it all in a perfumed, all spice-based texture that cleverly combines firm acidity with attractive ripeness.
£10.99 at Inverarity 121, Glasgow

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