The label of this wine caught my eye at Apolónia, I will have to admit, because of the old-style diver’s helmet on the label.
I’m always curious about Azores wines as each and every one of them I have tried over recent years has been somewhere between good and outstanding.
The poor slate soil, cool but not cold climate and perfect drainage of the steep hilled vineyards (of Pico Island in this case) that fall down to the sea are, after all, near-perfect terroir.
A handful of producers and skilled winemakers from the mainland have joined local producers over recent years and upped the game, to the extent that there are some eye-wateringly expensive Azores wines out there, including some on the shelves of Apolónia. But this one was just about acceptably priced at €19.95 and a glance at the label revealed that it is made by the very respectable Alentejo producer Rocim, who, amongst other winemaking endeavours worthy of praise, is one of the trailblazers when it comes to reinventing and restoring the tradition of claypot wines.
But this is not a claypot wine and what we have here is a white made from the indigenous Azores variety Arinto dos Açores, a grape that actually has very little to do with our beloved mainland Arinto and is possibly a descendant of the Verdelho grape. Little or no information is provided on the bottle’s labels, apart from the fact that it was “salvaged by Rocim”, so all I can assume is that this was an old vineyard resurrected by the producer.
Fermentation takes place in wooden “balseiro” vats followed by ageing on the lees. The wine has seductive green grass and white fruit with saline notes on the nose, good body in the mouth with balanced acidity and long fresh finish. Would I pay nearly €20 for it again? I’m not sure, but it is an excellent white that is well worth trying, especially if you have not yet tried any Azores wines.