February 12, 2010 Quinta de Covela
Quinta de Covela Escolha
avesso, chardonnay, gewurztraminer
Embrace this wine. One might think of it as summer fare, and heaven knows in August with the sun pouring relentlessly onto the garden, stretched into this lawn chair, awash in heat, the wine would be outstanding. But an outstanding wine is outstanding any time of the year…especially when there is a driveway waiting to be shovelled.
Quinta de Covela Escolha 2006
Again, colour sets the wine in motion. Straw-yellow, with a faint remnant of green. A nose then of apple and pear, with a fresh, crisp, welcoming clarity. A wine that refreshes before it ever touches the palate. Winsome in its mere look and touch. (Winsome? Really…?) It clearly has structure and a mineral presence, asserting itself nicely once the glass is tipped. A mellowed acidity, but retaining a definite edge. Light without being thin. Aromatic without overfilling the moment. $
Nuno Araújo is the custodian of this estate overlooking the Duoro river. It dates back to the 16th century, and the ruins of the original manor house and chapel are found there still. Quinta de Covela respects its past without clinging to it. It is helping to forge a new path for Portuguese wines, from its eye-catching labels to the character of what goes inside the bottles. While Portugal is renowned for its port and, in recent years, has been making a name for itself with a new generation of profound reds, it had never been especially known for its whites.
Nuno Araújo has made laudable steps in changing that. In the 1980s experiments began to determine what grape varieties worked best in what had been recognized for centuries as a unique terroir. Over a dozen varieties were planted. For whites the chosen grape turned out to be a local lad — avesso. For reds it was the quintessential Portuguese varietal — touriga nacional. Winemaking began in ernest. The terraced vineyards make a stunning sight, curving as they do in an amphitheatre-like setting. Work in the vineyards is labour-intensive; harvesting is by hand.
Quinta de Covela is a rarity in Portugal, a fully biodynamic operation. Nuno Araújo credits it with the ability of the vineyards to perform well, even when weather conditions are less than ideal. Where he will take his 19 hectares in the years ahead is cause for exciting speculation.
Meanwhile, as the snow falls, I think of having my next bottle of Covela in that very lawn chair, oh, six months from now.