A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Padeiro - Vinho Verde, Portugal

About a year ago, I was surprised to find a wine made from the Espadeiro grape in the Vinho Verde region of Portugal while I was visiting my in-laws for Thanksgiving in Pittsiburgh.  It was a spritzy little surprise that I thought really over-delivered for the meager price of $10.  A few months later, I started seeing wines in Boston-area shops made from a grape called Padeiro that were also from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal. Given how similar their names were, I figured there was probably some kind of link between them, but while there doesn't seem to be any evidence that these two grapes are related to one another, just what other grapes they may actually be related to is a complicated story indeed.

The confusion really started for me in Richard Mayson's The Wines and Vineyards of Portugal.  In that book, when you go to look up Padeiro in the index, it redirects you to the entry for the Tinto Cão grape, which is grown mostly in the Douro region of Portugal and is used in Port production.  Tinto Cão was pushed to the brink of extinction in the 1970's because while it is a very high quality vine, it is a very poor yielder and many growers pulled it up in favor of more productive vines.  Mayson notes at the end of his entry that "Tinto Cão is also known as Padeiro in the Basto sub-region of Vinho Verde and Tinta Mata."  None of which is particularly problematic, but when I looked up Padeiro on the Vinho Verde website, they do indicate that the grape is also known as Tinto Cão or Tinto Matias in some regions, but the following description also comes up: "Highly productive, it produces ruby to garnet-red colour wines with a distinctive aroma and taste, harmonious and flavourous (sic)."  Highly productive?  The singularly defining characteristic of the Tinto Cão vine seems to be its extraordinarily low productivity, so it seems pretty unlikely that we're talking about the same grape here.

I decided to take another look at the Espadeiro grape to see what Mayson had to say about it.  The index of Mayson's book directs you to two different entries when you try to look up Espadeiro.  The first is to the Sousão grape while the second is to a grape called Trincadeira Preta.  In the section on Sousão, Mayson mentions that this grape is also known as Vinhão in some parts of Portugal, but in the Basto region of Vinho Verde, it is known as Espadeiro de Basto.  Espadeiro Basto is, in fact, an accepted synonym for Vinhão/Sousão, but it isn't clear whether Mayson is saying that Espadeiro Basto is the same as Espadeiro.   This paper, which is in Portuguese, analyzed several different Portuguese grapes, including Vinhão, Sousão and Espadeiro, and they found that while Vinhão and Sousão were synonymous, Espadeiro was a separate cultivar. So, by extension, Espadeiro and Espadeiro Basto are two different grape varieties, though this isn't exactly clear in Mayson's book.  As for the Trincadeira Preta connection, this paper shows that a grape known as Trincadeira das Pratas, which is the same as Trincadeira Preta, is definitely different from Espadeiro as well (it also shows that neither grape is related to Vinhão/Sousão).

What does all that mean?  Essentially it means that Mayson's book is unreliable when it comes to grape synonymies, and thus we have ample reason to doubt his claim that Padeiro is the same grape as Tinto Cão. Reason to doubt is not the same as proof, though, so our next problem becomes trying to find information that will let us know definitively whether Padeiro is the same as Tinto Cão or any other grape for that matter.  The VIVC does have separate entries for both Padeiro and Tinto Cão, which is a good sign, but Tinto Cão is listed as an accepted synonym for Padeiro as well.  Further, there seems to be a lot of overlap in synonyms between Padeiro and Espadeiro, and at least one paper I read (citation 1 below) seemed to indicate that Padeiro was simply another name for Espadeiro in many places.

I searched for a really long time to try and find a DNA profile for Padeiro, and had virtually given up until I came across this paper, which was essentially announcing the creation of a database of microsatellite DNA for Portuguese grape varieties.  In that paper, the authors give the microsatellite profiles for hundreds of Portuguese grapes, including Padeiro, Tinto Cão and Espadeiro.  I took a look at the data, and sure enough, it was clear that all three grapes were different from one another.  That data was confirmed by another paper (citation 2 below) that gave the same results.

So what does all that mean?  It means that Padeiro is not the same grape as Tinto Cão or Espadeiro.  Further, Espadeiro is not the same grape as Sousão/Vinhão or Trincadeira Preta (aka Tinta Amarela).  Once again, one must be very careful when consulting reference works that do not cite any recent DNA studies, as there has been an avalanche of research just over the past decade or so that has revolutionized the way that we are able to think about and categorize different grape varieties.  Mayson's book is very informative and gives a masterful overview of the history of wine in Portugal and the characteristics of the different wine producing regions, but the section on the grapes is definitely out of date.  The book is out of print and outrageously expensive second hand, so be forewarned if you're looking for definitive information on Portuguese grapes, look elsewhere, but if you're looking for information on Portuguese wine in general, it is an unparalleled English-language resource.

I was able to pick up a bottle of the 2011 Quinta da Raza "Dom Diogo" Padeiro from my friends at the Wine Bottega for around $13.  In the glass this wine was a vibrant pink color with light fizz. The nose was nicely aromatic with cut watermelon, fresh strawberry and rainier cherry fruit.  On the palate the wine was on the lighter side of medium with fairly high acidity and just a light prickle of CO2.  There were flavors of fresh red cherries, strawberries and raspberries backed with just a bit of bitterness from the CO2.  Overall the wine was bright, fresh and very refreshing.  The fruits were lively and prominent, but the zippy acid and the bitter twist at the end gave it nice balance and kept it from being just a liquid fruit cocktail.  I enjoyed this wine with tacos, which is a difficult food to match wine with in my experience, and it performed admirably.  The day I opened it it also happened to be nearly 100 degrees outside and this wine was just perfect in those conditions.  It's a little pricier than some other Vinho Verde wines that I've had, but I still believe that it's a great value at only $13.


1)  Martin, JP, Arranz, C, Castro, ID, Yuste, J, Rubio, JA, Pinto-Carnide, O, & Ortiz, JM.  2011.  Synonymy in grape (Vitis vinifera L.) cultivars of northern Portugal and northwestern Spain.  Acta Horticulturae, 918, pp. 791-798.

2)  Castro, I, Martin, JP, Ortiz, JM, & Pinto-Carnide, O.  2011.  Varietal discrimination and genetic relationships of Vitis vinifera L. cultivars from two major Controlled Appellation (DOC) regions in Portugal.  Scienta Horticulturae, 127(4), pp 507-514.

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