Posted by: tomciocco | September 13, 2011

PORTUGAL’S REAL RIESLING DOPPELGANGER

It had long been thought, before the actual genetic science had been done, that Galicia’s and Northern Portugal’s grape Albarino (called Alvarinho in Portugal) was indeed none other than a long lost sibling of the noblest of Teutonic grapes, Riesling. There were, to be sure, lots of physiological similarties beween the varieties, and some fairly marked ones in the glass as well…Well, they ran the DNA through the gizmo, and…Nope. Not even close. Riesling and Albarino, other than the fact that they are both white-berried vitis vinfera, are unrelated.

What’s funny is is that a grape that I think really can be a near dead ringer for Riesling coincidentally grows cheek by jowl (trunk by cane?) with Alvarinho in Northern Portugal in the Vinho Verde appellation, and it’s called Loureiro (low RAY roo). The Vinho Verde zone represents a far-reaching range of wines, both white and red (yes, red – see my post of May 21, 2011) that can be bottled as blends and as well as single variety wines, and clearly this wine fits into the last category. From color to mouth feel to aroma and flavor, Loureiro, especially with a year or two in the bottle, can do a pretty great imitation of the great Riesling…except for the great longevity, the nearly incomparable, three-dimensional complexity, the…well, you get the picture…

I served this very traditional Portuguese wine with a very traditional Portuguese dinner of chicken/pepper/tomato/etc. empanadas (called rissois in Portuguese), and then grilled shrimp that had been marinated in lots of garlic, cilantro, piri-piri (Portuguese hot pepper sauce), lemon and wine, with a side of another classic: arroz de tomate (tomato rice).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quinta do Tamariz Loureiro Vinho Verde 2009

Bright medium greenish golden color. Exotic, even odd nose nose of super ripe pear, intense pollen notes, cocoa butter, minerally marshmallow, smokey flint, herbs, oyster mushrooms, toasted grains, and kerosene. The body is quite full but still fresh and pointed and tangy, with a slightly pulpy texture, and flavors of pomelo, lime zest, orange creamsicle, apricot, almond milk, and crystallized ginger. The finish is lingering and complex.

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Responses

  1. It’s nice to see someone, besides my friend Luiz Alberto from Brazil, who knows how to properly pronounce Loureiro. The grape never seems to get its due. I don’t know how many times I’ve read wine writers who don’t do their research associate Vinho Verde solely with Alvarinho, when in fact, Alvarinho is rarely (except in the case of Moncao) the dominant variety in Vinho Verde. More often than not Loureiro is the star in Vinho Verde blends.

    It’s also refreshing to see someone use the word “variety” instead of the ubiquitous and erroneous, “varietal.”

    Keep up the good work, Tom

  2. Hey Kent-

    Yup – Loureiro and its sidekick Trajadura are really the frame and muscle of the appellation. Alvarihno (Albarino) really belongs to Galicia…

    Thanks.

    T.C.


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