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Details for Clip do Monte da Vaia, Loureiro, Vinho Verde


CountryPortugal
Region
AppellationVinho Verde
Grape
Year2015
Producer
Clip do Monte da Vaia
(click to find out more)
ABV11%


Minho

The Minho river forms the border between the northern edge of Portugal and Spain, and gives its name to Portugal’s most northerly wine-growing region, extending from the border south to the Douro river. This is Vinho Verde country, and shares the wet, fairly cool, Atlantic-influenced climate of Spain’s Rias Baixas just across the border.
 
The grape varieties are similar, too: Alvarinho (called Albariño in Spain), Trajadura (Treixadura), and Loureiro (Loureira). Alvarinho is largely planted in the north of the region, with Vinho Alvarinho being a speciality of the Monção e Melgaço subregion along the Upper Minho river.
 
Unlike in Rias Baixas, there are black grapes grown here too, producing the rarely-exported red Vinho Verde (verde means green, but refers to the underripeness of the grapes rather than to their colour). It’s something of an acquired taste, but oddly appropriate with local dishes like Bacalhau - salted dried cod.
 


Clip do Monte da Vaia

Both a wine and a producer, Clip do Monte da Vaia is perhaps the ultimate in boutique producers: a collaboration between two friends in the Young Winemakers of Portugal collective to make a single wine showcasing the Loureiro grape.
 
The two are Pedro Barbosa, viticulturalist at the famous Douro estate Quinta do Vale Meão, and João Cabral de Almeida, consultant winemaker working with the great Anselmo Mendes of Monção in the Minho.  They wanted to create a single varietal Loureiro from grapes grown on Pedro’s family estate in the Barcelos area of Vinho Verde.
 
The Young Winemakers of Portugal are half a dozen talented young winemakers (and growers, in Pedro’s case), mostly working at prestigious Portuguese estates, who have joined together to market their own wines under a single banner.
 

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.


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