Region, river and wine
previous: behind me is António, the responsible for viticulture at Poema Alvarinho. He also farms the small organic horticulture on a few terraces at Quinta do Louridal. With João’s help he grows delicious tomatoes, onions, cabbages, beans and more while keeping spotless the garden around the house.
João (left) and Antonio back in January 2017
As if he wouldn’t have enough to keep him busy he takes care of the chickens, ducks and sheep. He has this contagious smile and positive vibe that just makes things look brighter even in face of the toughest harvests like this 2018
When I arrived he’d just came back from hospital after being stung by an Asian wasp that had settled a hive inside an old barrel next to the winery. With a smile he broke the news: “you know, the good side of this is at least I now know I’m not allergic to their poison!”
Not often you meet someone that causes such an impression that he or she sort of conquers your heart in an instant, António is such a person. Everyone matters in making successful a family project like this, but I also realised that it wouldn’t be the same without him. I hope he’ll inspire David and Raul (on the tractor) as he’s impressed me, if it’s so the case the future of Poema will be bright.
A well kept water mill near the end of our hike
previous: before turning into a small stream tributary to the Minho river we could enjoy a perspective worthy of the beautiful scenery where Quinta do Louridal is integrated. Inside the river the famous “pesqueiros” built from both the Portuguese and Spanish sides and quintessential structures allowing the capture of the much prized lamprey
Vitor & Sofia love hiking. This trek preceded the view described earlier and was surrounded by oak, laurel and pine trees. The monster is Lima, a friend from Porto
Being (António) from a different (old) school I was most impressed to learn of his changes in viticulture practices. There’s no more room for herbicides, pesticides (maybe’s that is why the wasps nested there? Who knows...) or synthetic fertilisers, walking the vineyards confirms: it is not a marketing mantra. But winemaking is now also based on fermentations with indigenous yeasts and ever lower manipulation.
So far 2018 has been a challenging vintage. After a wet a cold spring mildew hit widespread. The a heat wave in August literally cooked some vines like this one that didn’t resist.
Despite those viticulture changes and the inherent fears for someone with old habits, guess what? The wines are getting better and even top wine critics in Portugal used to rave about the usual suspects just bowed to their latest vintage ranking the wines amongst Monção-Melgaço’s very finest. One might not value wine critic too much but, in an appellation with names like Soalheiro or Anselmo Mendes just to mention two, believe me it is difficult to get proper recognition unless you’re producing something extraordinary.
Wine critics. Love them or hate them, it’ll always be hard to get the highest rates and deserved recognition.
previous: above a bunch with the scorched grapes. and below: most vines and their bunches resisted well and harvest is not compromised, until now...
2007 Always a special vintage. For me at least
I was fortunate enough to sip for the first time from the 2007 and 2006 vintages. If I had any doubt (which I don’t) about Alvarinho’s outstanding ageing potential those two wines would have help clear them! Great aromas, delicious, alive and bright. Curiously the older with many years ahead – remarkable for a grape and wines that a few years ago would inevitably be stamped with the “don’t keep, drink this year”
These are now the substitutes of herbicide to weed control
Wachau has a place in my heart due to family reasons, Douro, well… if Douro doesn’t capture your heart you’re probably dead… But a new river captured my heart and imagination. From the breath-taking landscape around it to the “pesqueiros” literally inside it, built with the granite it carved for millennia, a very real testimony to man’s endeavour, the Minho impresses in a way that goes beyond the outstanding wine made on its banks.
A huge thank you to Vitor and Sofia. I’m so grateful for their invitation and the (short) time spent with them. They gave me and my family the opportunity to experience first-hand the magic of the region, it’s river and the people that are the souls behind wine or those gems like the hike we made together. They handle sales and marketing and make sure all the work from vineyards to bottle doesn’t go to waste. Poema Alvarinho would have never gotten this far without them.
this and next two: under 1h drive from Melgaço there’s Castro Laboreiro, a beautiful mountain village well worth visiting
previous and next: Melgaço’s historical centre is something out of a Game of Thrones set... sorry! Game of Thrones sets could have been inspired by Melgaço’s historical centre. Now it’s correct!
Antonio could not join us for our last lunch before heading back home. He told me: “Marcos, I cannot be here today because already a while ago I made an appointment with a friend and we’re going fishing seabass at the mouth of river Minho.” I wondered how he finds time for all this? Probably time expands for people like him. But coming from where I do, I totally understand him. Nothing beats fresh caught seabass and you can’t just pass on that because someone showed up!
previous: before that last lunch Vitor and Sofia opened a bottle of a sparkling made with “méthod champenoise”. Bone dry and delicious just paired perfectly with some local cheese and some slices of a wooden hoven baked “brôa de milho e centeio”. Delighted with this combination I asked them who made it. Guess who?
Thank you, Sofia, Vitor, João and António! You made the 800km necessary to get there and back feel like 8 when compared to the experience and memories we brought home.
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