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.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Loureiro - Ponte de Lima, Vinho Verde, Portugal

When my buddy Joe over at Curtis Liquors first told me that he had a Vinho Verde wine that was made from 100% Loureiro grapes, I did a bit quick research on my phone and told him I wasn't interested.  You see, the Wikipedia page for Loureira (which is the name of Loureiro Blanco in Spain) said that Loureiro is also known as Arinto and since I already had a wine made from the Arinto grape, I didn't think it was necessary to pick this one up as well.  At the time, I had no idea that Arinto is actually used as a synonym for a wide range of grapes, most of which are not related to one another at all.  When I went to write my post on Arinto, I discovered that the wine that I had was made from Arinto de Bucelas grapes, which are very different from and completely unrelated to Loureiro grapes.  Luckily, Joe still had a few bottles of the Loureiro wine when I went back for it, so I picked a bottle up.

Loureiro is one of those grapes that many have probably had before, but may not be aware of it.  It is planted on about 6,000 acres of land in Portugal, most of which are in the northern part of the country in and around the Vinho Verde region.  As you can tell from the Vinho Verde website, there are a lot of different grapes that can be used to produce Vinho Verde wine, and most bottles that I've come across give no indication of which grapes make up the finished wine.  As I've mentioned previously (in my very first post on a Portuguese wine, as a matter of fact), Portuguese wines are often blends and since most consumers (at least most American consumers) aren't familiar with the several hundred different grapes that Portugal is home to, the Portuguese producers and their American importers/distributors don't see much reason to indicate a given wine's cépage anywhere on the label.  The average wine drinker who has enjoyed a few different Portuguese wines in his/her lifetime may have sampled more than a dozen different grapes, but also may have no idea what any of them were.

All of which is to say that Portuguese grapes have a tendency to appear more rare than they actually are.  Varietal wines are becoming more popular in Portugal, but most wines made there today are still blends, and since Loureiro is predominantly a Portuguese grape, it generally finds itself in various blends as well.  It is an assertively perfumed and flavored grape, as you may have guessed if you're fluent in Portuguese or one of the other Romance languages.  Loureiro comes from the word meaning "laurel" and the name was given to the grape because of the laurel scent and flavor that the grapes can have.*  It can be aggressively aromatic in other ways, too, and this is often cut by blending with Arinto, Trajadura, or any of the other white grapes in northern Portugal.

Loureiro is also grown in northwestern Spain, where, as mentioned above, it is generally known as Loureira. It covers about 1,400 acres of ground in Spain, and is actually blended more often there than in Portugal.  Loureiro's blending partners in Spain are typically Albariño (which shares enough DNA with Loureiro to make it possible that the two grapes are related, though the exact nature of that relationship hasn't been fully explored or uncovered [citation 1]), Treixadura (Trajadura in Portugal) and/or Godello.  There's also a very rare, nearly extinct Spanish grape called Loureiro Tinto found in northwestern Spain that some have thought may be a color mutation of Loureiro, but it doesn't appear as though the necessary testing has been done to confirm or deny this.  Loureiro Tinto is also sometimes used as a synonym for the Mencía grape, but no genetic connection has been found between Loureiro Blanco and Mencía either.

I was able to pick up a bottle of the 2009 Quinta do Ameal Loureiro from my friends at Curtis Liquors for around $15.  This wine is 100% Loureiro from the Lima sub-region of Vinho Verde in northern Portugal.  In the glass, the wine was a fairly light silvery lemon color.  The nose was fairly intense with pear, lemon, bay leaf and apricot aromas.  On the palate the wine was medium bodied with fairly high acidity.  There were flavors of apricot, lime, pear, bay leaf and citrus peel along with a nice stony minerality on the finish.  Many wines from Vinho Verde are light, spritzy, ethereal little things that are difficult to remember a few minutes after finishing and if you're in the market for a wine like that, you should probably pass this one by.  This was much more substantial than most Vinho Verde wines and resembled Riesling more than Twin Vines.  I thought it was an absolutely stellar wine, especially at the price point, and believe it would be a big hit with a variety of foods, especially seafoods that you may traditionally think are too heavy or assertively flavored for a light Vinho Verde.

*Think you don't know what laurel smells like?  Open your spice cabinet and open up the jar of bay leaves you keep in the back and hardly ever use.  Bay leaves come from the bay laurel tree, so the smell of bay leaves is the smell of laurel.  It seems odd that the plant used to crown the first Olympic champions in ancient Greece and the plant that is still used to designate positions of honor (think Nobel and Poet Laureates) is now relegated to the status of a pantry staple that no one is quite sure what to do with, but what can you do?


1) Ibáñez, J., M.T. de Andrés, A. Molino, and J. Borrego. 2003. Genetic study of key Spanish grapevine varieties using microsatellite analysis. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 54:22-30.

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