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What our expert thought of Clip do Monte da Vaia, Loureiro, Vinho Verde




the tasting

The Tasting


As expected from this notably pale-skinned variety, the wine is the palest of lemon yellows. However, there’s no sign of the slight spritz associated with old-school Vinho Verde. No gimmicks here!
 
Fresh, floral and surprisingly complex, this has a lovely nose of honeysuckle laid over slightly pithy but sweet citrus, like crystallized lemons. I don’t get bay leaf, but there is definitely something green and herbal here, though with an oriental twist of anise: it’s thai basil. There’s a hint of white pepper too.
 
The palate is mouthwateringly crisp – and uncompromisingly dry, unlike the sweetened-up Vinhos Verde of old. It’s light-bodied but there’s plenty of pithy citrus fruit to balance the razor-sharp acidity: lemons and pink grapefruit, squeezed over rocks.
 
That mineral quality continues into the long, saline finish, which also has hints of peppery oriental spice. It’s quite dry, and less mouthwatering than expected: the acidity is front-loaded here. But the flavours are back-loaded; the finish has remarkable persistence, especially for such a light-bodied wine.


Assessment


The white pepper and green herbs remind me a little of Austrian Grüner Veltliner, while the light body and saline finish somewhat resemble a good Muscadet. But this wine has its own unmistakeable style: the razor-sharp freshness, fragrant floral nose and concentrated citrus fruit mark this out as the quintessential Vinho Verde.
 
Pedro and João set out to make an ‘extreme’ Loureiro, to showcase the qualities of this often-overlooked variety. I think they’ve succeeded brilliantly: this has terrific focus and precision while remaining really fun to drink. Different, distinctive and delightful, this wine just makes me smile.


about this wine About this wine
 
We’ve featured a few wines that were big in the Seventies but have dropped out of fashion and are hard to find today, and here’s another.  Vinho Verde is a Portuguese DOC covering pretty much the entire Minho region of northwestern Portugal.  But it’s also a style of wine, and that style is high-acid, low-alcohol, pale and aromatic whites, often with a slight spritz of dissolved CO2, made from underripe, “green” grapes.
 
Actually, not just whites.  Until the Eighties most Vinhos Verde were red, and many still are.  But the grapes were just as underripe and the rasping reds they produced have never made it big on the export market.  White Vinho Verde, on the other hand, was huge in the UK.  It was fresh, cheap and uncomplicated, with its sharp edges usually softened for export by adding a little sugar.  As consumer tastes changed, demanding dryer, full-bodied whites like Chardonnay, it died a death.
 
The cool, rainy climate of the Atlantic coast encourages vines to devote their energies to growth rather than to ripening grapes, but the way the vines were grown was also responsible for the Vinho Verde style.  They were trained high on pergolas to allow crops to be grown underneath, or grown high on posts around the edges of fields.  This made for very efficient use of land, and exposing the grapes to drying winds reduced the risk of rot, but grapes do not ripen well when the vines are allowed to grow so high.
 
Since the Eighties, producers have increasingly moved towards dedicated vineyards with vines trained low, and the increased levels of ripeness that result can be seen in the way that average alcohol levels across the region have risen from 9–10% to 11–12%.  The traditional Vinho Verde style is now more a matter of deliberate stylistic choice, and many of the wines produced in the region are not “green” at all.
 
We featured one of these new-style whites back in March: Quinta do Feital’s Auratus.  This was as golden as its name, with 13% alcohol and quite a rich style.  It was made from a blend of two of the region’s more full-bodied varieties: Alvarinho and Treixadura.  In traditional Vinho Verde, these are joined by higher-acid, light-bodied varieties like Arinto and, especially, Loureiro.
 
Loureiro is the archetypal Vinho Verde grape.  Pale-skinned and extremely aromatic, it rarely exceeds 11% alcohol and retains its bracing acidity even when fully ripe.  Its name refers to the bay-leaf scent found in its wines; the Laurel and the Bay tree are one and the same. Under traditional viticulture it needed blending to soften its fearsome acidity but modern methods allow it to ripen sufficiently to make a varietal wine.  This is just such a wine, and is a true Vinho Verde in both name and style.
 
It comes from a 10 hectare vineyard of Loureiro vines grown by Pedro Barbosa on his family’s estate near Barcelos in the Minho.  Pedro’s day job is as viticulturalist at the famous Douro producer Quinta do Vale Meão; this wine Clip, named for the giant Eucalyptus tree (“Clip” in the local dialect) that stands at the gates of the estate, is a side-project.  Pedro enlisted his friend, noted consultant winemaker João Cabral de Almeida, to make the wine.
 
At 11%, this is about as ripe as Loureiro ever gets.  The grapes were fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel to preserve their sought-after aromas, and then aged in tank for six months before bottling.
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
As expected from this notably pale-skinned variety, the wine is the palest of lemon yellows.  However, there’s no sign of the slight spritz associated with old-school Vinho Verde.  No gimmicks here!
 
Fresh, floral and surprisingly complex, this has a lovely nose of honeysuckle laid over slightly pithy but sweet citrus, like crystallized lemons.  I don’t get bay leaf, but there is definitely something green and herbal here, though with an oriental twist of anise: it’s thai basil.  There’s a hint of white pepper too.
 
The palate is mouthwateringly crisp – and uncompromisingly dry, unlike the sweetened-up Vinhos Verde of old.  It’s light-bodied but there’s plenty of pithy citrus fruit to balance the razor-sharp acidity: lemons and pink grapefruit, squeezed over rocks.
 
That mineral quality continues into the long, saline finish, which also has hints of peppery oriental spice.  It’s quite dry, and less mouthwatering than expected: the acidity is front-loaded here.  But the flavours are back-loaded; the finish has remarkable persistence, especially for such a light-bodied wine.
 
Assessment
 
The white pepper and green herbs remind me a little of Austrian Grüner Veltliner, while the light body and saline finish somewhat resemble a good Muscadet.  But this wine has its own unmistakeable style: the razor-sharp freshness, fragrant floral nose and concentrated citrus fruit mark this out as the quintessential Vinho Verde.
 
Pedro and João set out to make an ‘extreme’ Loureiro, to showcase the qualities of this often-overlooked variety.  I think they’ve succeeded brilliantly: this has terrific focus and precision while remaining really fun to drink.  Different, distinctive and delightful, this wine just makes me smile.


Tasting notes

Appearance
clear palest lemon. No spritz.
Nose

Intensity medium+

Aromas floral (honeysuckle), sweet citrus (crystallized lemon), herbal (thai basil), white pepper

Development youthful
Palate

Sweetness very dry

Acidity high

Body light

Intensity medium+

Flavours pithy citrus (lemon, pink grapefruit), wet stones
Finish

Length long

Flavours as palate, dry and saline, peppery oriental spice
Other notes
Unoaked.


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