In a recent article, I discussed Alentejo and its most popular red grape, Alicante Bouschet. This article concentrates on one of Alentejo’s popular white grape varieties, Antão Vaz. Alentejo is one of the largest wine regions in Portugal. The country has over 250 indigenous grape varieties, so it goes without saying that its most popular grapes come from Alentejo.
The Antão Vaz grape is grown primarily in the Vidigueira region. While this grape lends itself to warm-hot climates, in a drought, this variety flourishes. The grape clusters are big and loose. The grape is considered a rather large with tough, thick skin. It typically produces a full-bodied wine with flavors of tropical fruits and citrus. When the grape is picked early, the wine produced showcases vibrant qualities as well as crisp aromas. If the grape stays on the vine longer, the juice becomes conducive to barrel fermentation and aging. These wines have more alcohol. Often Antão Vaz is blended with Roupeiro and Arinto.
Recently I sampled four wines from the region. Each wine displayed the winemakers’ interpretation of the grape. Some of the samples are blends.
Herdade da Malhadinha Antão Vaz da Peceguina 2016
This wine represents a wine that contains 100%, Antão Vaz. The wine ferments and ages in stainless, giving the wine a fruity character. Tropical flavors are present. Simplicity is the best word to describe this wine.
Esporão Monte Velho White Blend 2017
This wine comes from one of Portugal’s largest family-owned wineries. The wine consists of Antão Vaz blended with Roupeiro and Perrum. I found a fuller-bodied wine with texture and qualities that reminded me of Chardonnay. I would describe this wine as Alentejo’s Chardonnay. Flavors of stone fruit and lemon dominate the wine.
Esporão Reserva White
Combining Antão Vaz, Arinto, and Roupeiro, this wine is the flagship white wine of Esporão. The wine ages six months in stainless steel tanks and both French and American oak barrels on fine lees. One finds aromas of fresh fruit on the nose. On the palate, I found flavors of pear with nice spice on the finish. The wine also delivers lots of minerality and has qualities that remind one of a Gerwürztraminer and a Riesling.
Herdade do Rocim ‘Mariana’ Branco 2017
This wine showcases the Vidigueira region. Due to the cool breezes that come up from the Algarve Coast, the wine fashions itself like a Viognier. The wine nicely integrates the blend of Antão Vaz, Arinto and Alvarinho and delivers flavors of pineapple and apple.
Fitapreta Branco 2018
The grapes for this wine come from small parcels in the vineyard. Each parcel ferments separately, giving this blend of Antão Vaz, Roupeiro, and Arinto time to let each variety develop its character before uniting together. The result is a crisp, smooth well-integrated wine that displays stone fruit on the nose and citrus and pineapple on the palate. I also found lots of minerality in this wine.
For those who love unique whites, I recommend these wines because they represent the depth and quality of the Alentejo region.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received hosted wine samples. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.