With tongue-tingling spritz, mouthwatering lemon acidity, an iconic yellow label and a pocket friendly price, Chin Chin is a one wine Portuguese powerhouse, and easily our best selling bottle. But with a hefty duty increase taking effect on August 1st, we thought we would look beyond the UK's favourite Vinho Verde to some of the other star producers from this Iberian over-achiever.As Europe's westernmost country and bordering only Spain, viticulture in Portugal developed in relative isolation to the rest of the continent, with the result that Portugal has over 250 indigenous grape varieties - more than another country in the world - the vast majority of which are found nowhere else. Combined with a complex array of microclimates and soil types, a treasure trove of old vines and a history of small-scale, localised winemaking, Portugal is a true haven for authentic, characterful and unique wines.
Alvaro Castro (Dão)
Alvaro Castro is a maverick self-trained winemaker and a leading light in the Dão, a mountainous region south-east of Porto in the north of Portugal, where vines grow on granitic slopes protected by high mountains and pine forests. Inheriting vineyards in 1980 in the Dão’s Serra da Estrela sub-region, Alvaro was joined by his daughter Maria Castro in 2000, who now oversees winemaking and the vineyards, which have been cultivated without chemicals for many years. The vines - up to 65 years old - sit at an average altitude of 550m and are planted with traditional Dão varieties Encruzado, Cercial, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen, Alfrocheiro and Baga
Alvaro Castro Dão Branco - £17: The Dão Branco is a bright, fresh and textured Portuguese white made from Encruzado, Cercial Branco and Bical grown in granite mixed with sand and clay at 500m above sea level. Hand-picked and fermented at low temperature in stainless steel, this is lean and vibrant with notes of zesty citrus, fennel and mint with a lovely mineral finish.
Alvaro Castro Dão Tinto - £17: The Dão is where you find some of Portugal's freshest and most lifted reds and this is a perfect example. Made from native varieties Alfrocheiro, Touriga Nacional and Jaen, it's lively and crunchy with cranberry, pomegranate and raspberry aromas. Savoury and spicy on the palate reflecting 12 months ageing in old oak barrels.
Antonio Madeira (Dão)
Another acclaimed organic producer working in the Dão is António Madeira. António's family roots are in the Dão but he was born and raised in Paris after his parents fled the Salazar regime in the 1960s. In total António has 8 hectares of vines spread over 20 individual plots that vary in age between 50 and 120 years and are co-planted with many different varieties - red and white - some of which are yet to be identified. The vines are farmed biodynamically, harvested together and fermented spontaneously as field blends to create harmonious, layered wines with intense minerality and ageworthiness.
António Madeira Dão Branco - £29: A blend of over twenty indigenous varieties including Siria, Fernão Pires, Bical, Arinto, Encruzado, Malvasia Fina and Cercial. Rich and textural with a touch of briny green olive salinity, this is an emphatically mineral wine that reflects its granite terroir and proximity to the ocean.
António Madeira Dão Tinto - £27.50: The Dão Tinto is a field blend of Alfocheiro, Touriga Nacional and other unidentified varieties grown at high altitude. The old vines penetrate deep into the earth in search of sustenance, creating an intensely mineral wine reminiscent of black pepper, ripe red fruits, liquorice and exotic spice.
Aphros is the project of Vasco Croft, a fomer Lisbon architect who become one of the first winemakers to adopt biodynamics in Minho, quite an achievement in this wet and verdant north-west corner of Portugal famed for green hills and green wine (Vinho Verde). The estate spreads over nearly 20 hectares of land and forests, six of which are vineyards and four of which are chestnuts orchards. Native Garranos horses from the nearby mountains of Peneda-Gerês, an endangered species of which there are only about 2000 left, roam freely on the land, grazing on cover crops and providing manure. There are also 60 beehives looked after by a dedicated beekeeper!
Aphros Vinho Verde - £21: Aphros' mineral and floral Vinho Verde made from 100% Loureiro. It's fresh and high-toned with a granitic minerality and a steely citrus quality accompanied by hints of jasmine and orange blossom. More textured than your average Vinho Verde with plenty of length.
Aphros Vinho Verde Tinto - £22: A lesser spotted red Vinho Verde made from the local variety Vinhão. A crunchy, intensely herbal red akin to Loire Valley Grolleau or Cabernet Franc. Sour cherry and cassis aromas with touches of mint and thyme. Very fresh on the palate with lively acidity and drying tannins. At its best with a little chill.
Vale da Capucha (Lisboa)
Pedro Marques is the fifth-generation in a winemaking family based in Torres Vedras, just north of Lisbon. He has 13 hectares of vineyards, situated 9km from the Atlantic coast, grown in Kimmeridgian clay soils that contain a high proportion of ocean fossils, similar to those found in Chablis. The vineyards are bathed in fresh Atlantic breezes, further enhancing the saline element in the wines and tempering the warmth of the region. He has been certified organic since 2015, no easy task in this humid climate. In his own words he follows a 'lazy' approach to winemaking, working with wild fermentations and no temperature controls, fining or filtration, his only addition being a touch of sulphur at bottling.
Vale da Capucha Fossi Tinto - £22: A field blend of Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz fermented in concrete tanks in whole bunches before pressing off to age in old oak barrels. Perfumed and spicy on the nose with smoky raspberry and violet aromas and a rugged, animal quality. Medium bodied on the palate with savoury tobacco, game and more smoky fruit.
Thanks very much for reading, all wines are available in store and online now alongside plenty of Chin Chin, worth stocking up on at the current price of £12 or 6 for £69 before the duty change in August.