Asnella Vinho Verde 2019
Brilliant green-yellow. On the nose, lime zest, green apple, wet stone, and white pepper notes that are almost reminiscent of a Federspiel level Gruner. The palate is clean, concentrated, and incisive, with dry citrus and unripe pear followed by flavors of tarragon, slate and white pepper.
The flinty minerality and bright fruit on the Asnella make it an ideal pair for oysters, as well as shrimp, clams, mussels and other seafood. The clean flavors of east Asian cuisine are a particularly good pairing.
Blend: 60% Arinto, 40% Loureiro
Asnella is a single vineyard Vinho Verde that exposes an unexplored side of the Vinho Verde DOC. In addition to the delicious, lightly effervescent aperitif-style wines that are most frequently exported from this part of Northern Portugual, there is a whole category of terroir-driven, artisan wines that has heretofore gone unnoticed. The vineyard where Asnella is grown is on the border between the Southern side of the Vinho Verde DOC and the Northern edge of the Douro. This vineyard a fault line that separates two very different soil types – the schist of the Northern Douro and the granite of the Douro, as noted on either side of the label. The blend of these two parcels in the vineyard imbues the wine with a profound minerality and weight uncommon for Vinho Verde.
Best known for intense, impressive and age-worthy fortified wines, Portugal relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to its north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west and south coasts, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, due to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. A long and narrow but small country, Portugal claims considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast.
While Port (named after its city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast at the end of the Douro Valley), made Portugal famous, Portugal is also an excellent source of dry red and white wines of various styles.
The Douro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red wines made from the same set of grape varieties used for Port, which include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, among a long list of others in minor proportions.
Other dry wines include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine, made in the north, and the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão as well as the bold, and fruit-driven reds and whites of the southern, Alentejo.
The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended white wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used in white wine blends, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied white wine blend, like Chardonnay, would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.