Vinho Verde, Portugal
When Fernando Guedes acquired this historic estate in 1982 he immediately set out to transform it, planting 35 hectares of vineyards in this cool, wet part of north-western Portugal, bordered to the north by the Minho River adjacent to Spain, to the west by the Atlantic and to the south by the city of Porto. Traditional overhead pergola systems were derived from the farmers' need to use every piece of land, including that under the trellis. While good for the farmers, this was not ideal for the vine or the wine. Fernando moved away from these high-trained pergolas to cordon-trained vines that provide better exposure for the grapes, which as a result are riper and healthier at harvest.
In planting the vineyards at Azevedo, and making the first wine in 1990, Fernando pioneered the production of quality Vinho Verde. Today, winemaker Antonio Braga and his team continue to make some of the best wines from the region. The vineyards are situated in the commune of Barcelos and are planted primarily with the indigenous varieties Loureiro, Alvarinho and Pedernã. Fermentation takes place in stainless-steel tanks at 14 to 17˚C to retain the intrinsic freshness of these varieties. As in the past, a small amount of CO2 is retained in the wine to give it a characteristic spritz, and to lift the flavour. The delicate Loureiro variety lends a floral and aromatic quality to the wine. The Pedernã (known as Arinto in the rest of Portugal) gives zest, while the Alvarinho brings structure and complexity.
The Vinho Verde is a blend of Loureiro and Alvarinho, which shows depth and character thanks to the 30% Alvarinho, and an element of skin contact. Meanwhile the Quinta de Azevedo Reserva is made solely with a careful selection of estate fruit, and is therefore produced in small quantities, it exhibits more weight and texture on the palate thanks to lees stirring, and has a long and balanced finish. They underscore the quality that Vinho Verde can achieve.