If any one wine producer in Portugal can be singled out for championing the Alvarinho grape, it is undoubtedly Soalheiro.
They started with the main label Soalheiro Alvarinho white back in the 1990s and anyone who has the chance to try one of their aged whites will agree with me that the Alvarinho grape has ageing qualities that could be compared even with Riesling.
Over the years, however, this producer has been experimenting with this grape in so many different ways that it is easy to lose count. Their oak-aged “Reserva” wines, with mighty bottle-ageing potential, are amongst the great Portuguese whites, whilst the likes of “Primeiras Vinhas”, made from old vines and various examples made in the orange wine style, fermenting and ageing with skins, have also been successful.
They have likewise made sparkling wine using the Champagne method, low-alcohol wines such as “Dócil” and a very interesting blend of Alvarinho with Sauvignon Blanc.
The portfolio is huge, some indeed may consider it to be too vast, but quality is ever present from this stalwart of producers in the Vinho Verde region.
And now, the latest new release (€14.95) at Apolónia is a Pet Nat. For those not yet familiar with the Pet Nat trend, it is short for “Pétillant Naturel” in French, which in English means “naturally sparkling”.
The method was probably used long before the traditional Champagne method of adding more yeast to a finished wine for a second fermentation in the bottle by trapping CO2 to create the bubbles.
With a Pet Nat, the initial fermentation in the vat is interrupted and the wine bottled to continue fermenting and trap CO2 in a similar way. The result, however, is always a lighter bubble than Champagne-style sparkling wine and usually lower alcohol (12º in this case).
This wine is really interesting and quite complex. There are notes of yeast on the nose lending it a slightly hoppy character, in some ways reminiscent of a very good cider, but with lovely tropical fruit notes typical from the Alvarinho grape. In the mouth, it is light and fresh with the gentle fizz adding to a nice dry finish.