João Portugal Ramos Alvarinho

I was reluctant to try this wine for no other reason than that a quick read of the rear label on the bottle revealed it had been fermented in new French oak casks.
I love the Alvarinho grape and am not alone in thinking that it produces some of the best white wines in Portugal. Good Alvarinho is, after all, about those grassy mineral and floral notes and lively acidity that remind us of the green hills of the Minho region.
Great Alvarinhos like Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas are wines that demonstrate just how far white wine production has come over the last 10 years or so here in Portugal.
So, when well-known Alentejo winemaker João Portugal Ramos ventured up to the Minho to realise a lifelong dream and produce his own Alvarinho, why did he have to oak-ferment it? Were it not for my respect for this particular winemaker, I would have avoided the wine out of principal – not that I am against good use of oak in white wine, but most oaked Alvarinhos I have tried to date have been disappointing. But try it I did and I am pleased to say that I will be buying the wine again.
The wine has great freshness on the nose and not a hint of oak, but rather a more complex citric and floral aroma along with some tropical fruit. This is very intelligent use of oak that enhances the bouquet without overpowering it and rounds off the mouthfeel – a very elegant wine.
Good acidity and the overall complexity of flavours should reveal some nice surprises after a few years of bottle ageing, but with this 2012 being the first vintage, we will have to wait and see.
I’ll certainly be laying a few bottles up to see how this thoroughly original Alvarinho develops.
Promotional price at Apolónia supermarket (valid from Thursday 13 to Wednesday 19)
JPR ALVARINHO: €8.95 (retail price €9.95)
By PATRICK STUART [email protected]