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A Taste of Antão Vaz

With 250 indigenous grape varieties officially registered in Portugal and fourteen regional wine areas, there is much to explore and a lot of wine to taste.  

Map credit:  Viniportugal

A few months ago I wrote about Alicante Bouschet, the signature red grape of the Alentejo region of Portugal. Today the spotlight is on Antão Vaz (ANT-ow VASH), the star white grape of this region. But before we dive into exploring this grape, let’s do a quick review of the Alentejo wine region.
Portugal is divided into fourteen regional wine areas, each with its own unique geography and climate. 

The Alentejo wine region covers a third of Portugal in the southern half of the country and enjoys a Mediterranean climate.  The wines produced here come in a range of styles, influenced by the diversity of the climate and soil.

The soil of Alentejo varies throughout its eight sub-regions. In fact, it has the most diverse soil of any region in Portugal.  Interspersed amongst the mountains, hills and valleys, one can find soil with clay, limestone, quartz, granite, schist, sandstone and marble.  Most of the soils are non-calcareous, meaning they are neutral or more acidic.
Alentejo has 51,000 acres of planted vines that enjoy 3000 hours of sunshine annually.  More than 80% of the grapes grown here are red, but whites are gaining momentum, especially Antão Vaz.

Antão Vaz Photo credit: Wines of Portugal

Antão Vaz is a large, thick-skinned grape that is disease resistant and also highly resistant to drought, which makes it well suited to the hot and sunny climate of Alentejo. When grapes are picked early, the wines tend to be light and quite aromatic with citrus notes and crisp acidity. If the grapes are left longer on the vine, the wines can reach higher levels of alcohol, making the wine suitable for barrel aging.

Antão Vaz is quite versatile and is made in a wide range of styles. It can be made as a single varietal but is often blended with other native grapes such as Roupeiro, Arinto and Perrum.

I recently received a selection of wines that show how multifaceted Antão Vaz is.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Esporão Monte Velho White Blend 2017
Herdade do Esporão has 450 hectares of vineyards planted in key agricultural areas.  For this wine, grapes were harvested throughout the region, resulting from a partnership with suppliers from the different sub-regions of Alentejo.  Monte Velho is a blend of 40% Antão Vaz, 40% Roupeiro and 20% Perrum.   The color is vibrant lemon with aromas of citrus, stone fruit and hints of green apple.  White flowers, citrus notes and peach layer the palate.  Crisp acidity and a beautiful mouthfeel add richness to this wine.  It’s easy to drink and will pair with a variety of food.  It’s perfect to serve with Asian cuisine.
Alcohol:  14.5%
SRP:  $12

Herdade do Rocim Mariana Branco 2017 is a blend of 60% Antão Vaz 30% Arinto and 10% Alvarinho.  The grapes were harvested from the sub-region of Vidigueira in the lower region of Alentejo where the climatic conditions are the most temperate.  The wine color is light straw with a tinge of green. Delicate aromas of floral, peach and hints of mango segue onto the palate with tropical fruit and lemon.  This is a refreshing wine with nice acidity and good structure.  Serve with seafood, appetizers, light pasta and salad.
Alcohol:  12.5%
SRP:  $13

Fitapreta Branco 2018 is a blend of Antão Vaz, Roupeiro, Rabo de Ovelha, Tamarez, Arinto and Alcante Branco. Grapes are harvested from the sub-region of Évora located in the interior of Alentejo, which experiences typical mild and warm Mediterranean weather with more rainfall in the winter. The batches of grapes are fermented separately so as to preserve their distinctive qualities and only blended post-fermentation. The color is pale lemon with aromas of floral, citrus, candied apple and hints of minerality. Citrus, honey, pear, tropical fruit and just the right amount of acidity on the palate makes for a very refreshing wine.  Serve with seafood, light appetizers and salad.
Alcohol:  13%
SRP:  $22

Herdade da Malhadinha Nova Antão Vaz da Peceguina 2016 is 100% Antão Vaz. Malhadinha Nova is situated in Albernoa, in the heart of lower Alentejo where the climatic conditions are the most temperate. The color of this wine is golden with lively aromas of tropical fruit, tangerine and honey. Subtle flavors of tropical fruit, citrus peel and an undefined mineral taste on the finish add to a fresh and well-structured wine. Try pairing with grilled fish and vegetables.
Alcohol:  13%
SRP:  $25

The above wines are quite nice and they have piqued my interest in tasting barrel aged Antão Vaz. The barrel aged wines allow for the fruity characteristics of this variety to evolve and the texture becomes smoother as well. I’ll be sure to share my notes with you when I delve deeper into the versatility of Antão Vaz.

Until next time…



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