Pequenos Rebentos, Orange Wine discovery in Portugal

Márcio Lopes

As my faithful reader, you know that I am always searching for new different wines; wines that make me vibrate when drinking them. I love orange wines, and each passing day I like better natural and biodynamic wines, though I’m not a Taliban of them and I drink many other things vinified the traditional way with sulfites without my skin turning red. However, I do not enjoy that much too radical or extreme wines. I like well-made wines, with a good balance and a good structure, though I know this a rather very general description.

You also know that I really love the wines of Friuli in Italy and the area of Goriška Brda in Slovenia. There is where I found my paradise, both orange and dry white wines that elevate me to the highest levels of satisfaction. And let’s not forget about their red and sparkling wines. I always tell my friend Richard that I could spend the rest of my days drinking only the wines from these two areas.

Nevertheless, we must continue discovering new horizons, looking for new goals and trying new wines. Sometimes, though, wine knocks on your door. Or mine, to be more precise. This is what happened to me recently with a Portuguese producer from the Vinho Verde region. It turns out that this producer is making an orange wine and he offered me the opportunity to enjoy it, and of course, who am I to say no to an orange wine from Portugal?

Márcio Lopes is this producer. He began his career working with maestro Anselmo Mendes in Melgaço (a sub-region of Vinho Verde located in the north of Portugal) with the Alvarinho and later he traveled to Australia. Since his return in 2010, Márcio works in two Portuguese regions where he has his own projects: Pequenos Rebentos in Vinho Verde and Proibido, Permitido and Anel in the Duero. Since 2017, Márcio has another project in the Ribeira Sacra in Galicia (Spain) that has just started and whose wines are being aged in oak barrels.

In the Vinho Verde region, Márcio works with Alvarinho and Trajadura varieties within the Monção and Melgaço sub regions. In 2016, he started working with the varieties Loureiro, typical of Lima Valley, and Avesso, in the Tâmega Valley. He also makes red wine with the varieties Cainho Tinto, Pedral and Alvarelhao (Brancellao). The vineyards in Melgaço are over 80 years old and they are trained under the pergola system. In Azal, where the vines are over 90 years old, they are trained according to the “Vinha de enforcado” system, the oldest viticulture system in the region, where the vines can reach 8 meters high. This is where Márcio has used amphora for the first time to age his wines and he is expecting to release his first vintage to the market this same year. Currently, he has 5 hectares of vineyards that he is working organically. In addition, this is where he is trying to recover very old vineyards.

The Proibido and Anel wines are elaborated in the Douro and the come from vines between 40 and 80 years old. In this region, Márcio is always looking for varieties that have been long abandoned, trying to make them live again and producing new different wines. Here he is working with the varieties Donzelinho Tinto, Rufete, Bastardo, Mourisco, Amor nao me deixes and Souson among others for Proibido Tinto, and Rabigato, Verdelho, Terrantez (Folgazão), Codega, Dona Branca for Permitido Branco. Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca are the varieties used to make Anel.

As Márcio says, working in the Douro, in Vila Nova de Foz Côa, near the border with Spain, is very hard and everything is done by hand and with the help of a horse. Nothing else.

Another particularity of Márcio is that he makes just very few bottles of each label. The Vinhos Verdes are the ones with the highest number of bottles per vintage, currently 55,000 bottles per year, while in Douro he makes about 15,000 bottles.

And we were talking about his orange wine. It is made in Vinho Verde and is called Pequenos Rebentos À Moda Antiga, of which I have enjoyed so much the current 2016 vintage. It is a wine made with Alvarinho grapes 40%, Avesso 30% and Arinto 30%, from a granitic soil vineyard located in Amarante. The must fermented and then macerates on the skins for about six days, and then it ages on its lees for nine months in used oak barrels.

When tasting it, this wine answers to the criteria I mentioned in the first paragraph. It is a very well made wine in which the skins are just barely noticed, just the way I like it. It is very limpid and fine, a light touch of white stone fruit, silky tannins and not very marked, with a good acidity and an ample body in the mouth. In short, a wine that is does not show the vinification process and would make you think is a very fine Vinho Verde wine.

In Márcio’s opinion, this wine has “a strong varietal character, rustic and fresh, with the minerality that I appreciate in these varieties, reflecting the ancient taste. I like to experiment and experiences must be shared.”

Pequenos Rebentos À Moda Antiga will always be a special edition, bottled in a limited amount of bottles (1,265 in 2016) provided that the quality will match the requirements.

Soon we will talk with Márcio Lopes about his wines and his winemaking philosophy.

Photos (C) Márcio Lopes

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