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Many producers feel that Alvarinho could become a leading Portuguese variety and are keen to cash in on any future success but there is some tension that only those styles grown in the sub-region of Monção and Melgaço are allowed to be classified as Vinho Verde wines.
Any Alvarinho planted elsewhere in the region must instead be labelled as Vinho Regional do Minho but even the executive president of the Commisão de Viticultura do Região dos Vinhos Verdes (CVRR), Manuel Pinheiro, admitted that this was a situation that may require change.
“But these things take time,” he added.
In the meantime, though, producers are finding out the differences Alvarinho shows up when planted in other different sub-regions.
Antonio Sousa, a winemaker at numerous estates including Solar Serrade, thinks those differences are marked and added, “it could become a recognised Portuguese grape”.
Luís Cerdeira, who runs Quinta do Soalheira in Melgaço, said that for now production still lagged behind that of Spain but, “the national image is high and internationally it is growing too.
“Of course Spain is bigger (some 200 producers to 50 in Monção and Melgaço) and in the US they pronounce Albariño better than Alvarinho but it depends on the market. In Brazil it is very well known.”
Alvarinho also bucks the perception that Vinho Verde must be drunk young, with Cerdeira among others saying that 2001 is drinking wonderfully at present and older vintages are equally capable of longevity.
Of course, with greater quality, complexity and age worthiness come higher prices, another trait that goes against the traditional view of Vinho Verde as cheap, relatively straightforward and accessible.
The growing number of plantings are linked to this but there are already some fears that too many growers cashing in may dilute that quality image.
“The danger is that it will become a common grape variety not a value one.”
For a more in-depth look at Vinho Verde’s way forward in the UK market, see July’s issue of the drinks business.
Story by Rupert Millar
Courtesy of The Drinks Business