In which Old Parn continues his Portuguese Vinho Verde expedition. He encounters a thrilling factory (sarcasm) and a thrilling hound (not sarcasm), and meditates on wine labels, cooperatives and the like.
So. Final day. Best day? Best day. And this wasn’t only down to the fact that I met Goony. But we’ll get to Goony in a while. First of all, let’s talk about Provam and Adega Ponte de Lima, shall we?
Provam and Adega Ponte de Lima
Now, remember how I said about all the family-run wineries, back in yesterday’s Vinho Verde blog? Well, here’s where you forget it all. Because these guys ain’t that. These are big ol’ cooperatives, pooling the resources of something like (in the case of Adega Ponte de Lima, the larger of the two) 2,000 small winemakers.
When I say ‘small winemakers’, incidentally, I don’t mean they’re dwarves. I guess they might be. It’s not impossible: this kind of thing worked for Willy Wonka. But nothing I heard or saw during the visit gave me reason to believe that they are. So I suspect the distribution of their heights roughly mimicks that of the Portuguese population at large. But someone should do a study on this.
Perhaps, though, there is some residual insecurity about size here. Because the people at Adega Ponte de Lima were extremely keen to show us their big tanks. And their big pallets of wine. And their big warehouse. All these things were indeed big. And (to your thrill-seeking, hedonistic correspondent) pretty boring. I mean, heck, I know what a factory looks like.
(Point of fact: I don’t really know what a factory looks like. What I mean is, I don’t fucking care what a factory looks like. Call me glib if you like. I am. Proudly.)
Finally, though, we got out of the factory (some of those tanks, though. Boy. You’d’ve loved them) — and into the tasting. This entailed yet more precarious shenanigans with glass in one hand, papers in one hand, pen in one hand. SPOT THE DELIBERATE ANATOMICAL MISTAKE.
(Note to Adega Ponte de Lima: this stuff is easier if you can sit down. Surely you must have a big table somewhere?)
The wines themselves are simple, straight down the line. Nothing to scintillate the Parn palate, but I don’t suppose that’s their goal. This kind of stuff is probably priced keenly enough (for export) that it could make its way onto UK shelves at a relatively good price. If anyone would buy them…
Overall, I preferred Provam‘s wines, which seemed to have a fair dab more elegance to them (they also had a table for us to sit at). But they’re also priced higher than Adega Ponte de Lima’s. So no surprise, really. It was especially interesting to taste, side by side, the 2010 and 2009 vintages of their Portal do Fidalgo, made with the Alvarinho grape, one of the region’s stalwarts.
Over the course of my visit to Vinho Verde, I’ve acquired a fair old fondness for Alvarinho — which makes some damn nice, refreshing wines that are accessible without being patronising or simplistic. This won’t surprise those of you who’ve noted already that I’m a fan of Spanish Albarino (which is the same grape). Once I’m safely ensconced back in the UK, I’ll hunt down some examples for you.
But the interesting thing here was that the vintage that’d had that extra year in the bottle had undergone rather a lovely transformation. The freshness, the citrus bite, the stony minerality remained, but were softened, rendered very elegant, smooth. The resulting wine was very good indeed, to my mind. But, apparently, nobody wants to buy a 2009 Alvarinho — because it’s seen as a wine to be drunk as young as possible. On the evidence of this tasting, this is a big old shame.
Quinta Edmun do Val
Then lunch — at Quinta Edmun do Val. This was where I met Goony. But Goony’s time will come.
Meanwhile, let me tell you about the winey stuff. Quinta Edmun do Val is another family affair. This time, the family is actually Spanish — from just across the border — and (Pablo, who showed us round, told me) most of their wine is sold in Spain, not Portugal, in defiance of nationalistic disdain. Selling wine, said Pablo, is all about contacts. And his contacts are Spanish.
I talked to Pablo a good bit. Mainly, I talked to him about websites and online activity (an area in which he had already benefited from the sage advice of Ryan Opaz) and about the label on his wine.
It’s a pretty good label, isn’t it? Why’s it good? Because it doesn’t look like most of the other white Vinho Verde labels. Which, as Pablo said, are ‘bright and colourful with pictures of a flower or an animal or a landscape’. This one is minimal and typographic; confident in monochrome. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying it’s the best label I’ve ever seen. But for a small winery, I was impressed at the boldness of Pablo’s decision to separate his wine from the herd of cliched labels. That’s what good branding is about (as I’m sure Quaffable would agree…)
Right. This post has been going on for bloody ages now. So what I’m going to do is split chapter 4 into two parts. Because it’s my blog, and I can do what I want. Alright? We’ll finish the final day tomorrow.
But before I go, allow me to present Goony.
Pablo introduced me to Goony — the laziest dog in the world, and ‘the only English thing we have here’. Goony is a lovely, brilliant creature. He rumbles and wheezes like an old accordion. I could easily have spent an hour or so just murmuring my nonsense dog-talk to Goony.
Isn’t he a delight?