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What our expert thought of Quinta do Feital, Auratus




about this wine About this wine
 
Portugal has a problem; other countries are not buying its wines. There are plenty of Spanish wines on our supermarket shelves, but precious little Portuguese. Perhaps it’s the lingering memory of Mateus Rosé, or the unfamiliar and tricky-to-pronounce label names.
 
Whatever the reason, it isn’t anything to do with the quality of the wines. Portugal produces a dazzling array of exciting wines, largely from local grape varieties, that are distinctively different and superb value for money. And the whites can be just as good as the reds.
 
I remember the moment when I discovered how great Portuguese white wine could be. It was fifteen years ago, sitting with my wife-to-be on the sunny terrace of a bar in Lisbon perched on a hillside overlooking the harbour. We ordered some nibbles - olives and almonds - and a bottle of Alvarinho. It was a revelation. After a while we decided to abandon sightseeing for the day and bought a second bottle and some more olives. It was one of the nicest afternoons I've ever spent.
 
That Alvarinho came from the far north of Portugal, from the Minho region on the cool and verdant Atlantic coast. So does this wine, made by talented Galician winemaker Marcial Dorado. Galicia is the area of Spain just north of Portugal, and is famed for its Albariño - the Spanish name for the Alvarinho grape. Marcial’s seach for the best old-vine Albariño led him just across the Minho river into Portugal, where he found his perfect vineyard and founded Quinta do Feital to make the wine from it.
 
The estate produces just two wines: the flagship Dorado, a pure Alvarinho, and this wine, Auratus, which is an equal blend of Alvarinho with Trajadura. With Loureiro, another local grape, these make up the usual blend for Vinho Verde and indeed this wine could have been labelled with the Vinho Verde DOC. But Vinho Verde is a style as well as a region, and that style is low-alcohol, high-acid wine with a slight fizz, made from underripe grapes. This wine is 13% ABV, from fully-ripe grapes and completely still, so Marcial chose to label it with the ‘lesser’ Vinho Regional Minho designation instead.
 
Auratus is produced from grapes grown in the Quinta's second vineyard, a natural amphitheatre of terraced vines on granite soils at Seixas, near the mouth of the Minho river. Marcial bought this vineyard in 2002 and farms it organically. The grapes are hand-harvested and meticulously sorted at the winery.
 
Fermentation is carried out in stainless steel at a low 15°C to preserve the aromatics, using only the wild yeasts. Consequently it takes a long time - some 20 days - which makes for increased complexity in the wine. It’s then matured in stainless steel for six months on fine lees, with weekly lees-strirring adding texture to the palate and depth to the nose. Some of the tanks undergo malolactic fermentation (MLF) to add further richness while only slightly reducing the crisp acidity. This is not your standard Vinho Verde!
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
Auratus means golden, referring to the colour of the fully-ripe grapes and of the wine made from them. The extended skin contact required to pick up wild yeasts has also picked up lots of colour.
 
There’s quite a pronounced nose of honeysuckle, orange peel and apricot kernels (there's something stony rather than fruity about the apricot). I like the balance of floral, citrus and mineral elements here.
 
The palate is dry, crisp and clean, with good acidity that is initially masked by the fruit but becomes more obvious on the finish. At first this wine seems on the light side of medium-bodied but then fills out in the mouth, with a creamy texture from the lees contact and MLF. There are quite rich pear, melon and white peach flavours, with an intriguing hint of bitter almonds.
 
The medium+ finish sharpens things up again with an almost salty tang and more of those almonds.
 
Assessment
 
This tastes very Portuguese, though I'm hard-pressed to say why! I think it’s a slightly bruised-petal quality to the floral scents and that hint of bitterness on the finish.
 
This shows lovely balance, starting and finishing like a crisp, aromatic white (a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc, say) but with the satisfying weight of an unoaked Chardonnay in the middle. Very more-ish!


Tasting notes

Appearance
medium yellow-gold
Nose

Intensity medium+

Aromas honeysuckle, orange peel and apricot kernels

Development developing
Palate

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium+, more prominent on finish

Body starts medium-, ends medium+

Intensity medium

Flavours pear, melon and white peach, with some bitter almonds
Finish

Length medium+

Flavours salty minerality, and more almonds
Other notes
unoaked


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