This visit was organised as part of the 2012 Port Explorer’s Tour I introduced in an earlier post. If you are already wondering what Afros has to do with Port, congratulations for spotting that! Really the only relationship is that Vinho Verde, the region of Quinto do Casal do Paço where Afros wine are produced, is geographically very close to Porto. This was the “and now for something completely different” moment of the tour, and one I was looking forward to.
We started off by surveying Casal do Paço’s vineyards. The weather was not great. It was cold and we did a lot of shower-dodging, but the soft light, with occasional rainbow, was very photogenic.
Vasco Croft, the producer and our generous host, was obviously very proud of the biodynamic viticulture employed at Casal do Paço and we were shown the specially constructed wooden hut, away from power lines, where the biodynamics preps were made. Initially, all the preparations were made from scratch here and hand-stirred, but as the business grew they now need to buy in some raw materials and employ an electric mixer.
And just outside the hut was a fountain “designed by an English scientist”, which pre-dynamises the water used for the preps, by way of a series of vortices. At this point I am tempted to launch into one of my anti-biodynamic rants. I am not going to, but I will say that I don’t believe a word about anything that biodynamics layers on top of organic agriculture.
Anyway, enough of all this biodynamics. We headed slowly back to the main building for a tasting and lunch. En route we passed the mobile bottling line that was in operation at the time, but saw nothing of the winemaking itself. Inside and warmed-up, we started with a standing-up tasting, and then sat down to lunch with the wines and opened a few more bottles. And what a fantastic, long and relaxed lunch it was. My description here does not do it justice, but the first course was based around some wonderfully meaty prawns, the mains was wild boar with a honey coating, which was followed by a chocolate and olive oil mousse-type dessert. It was certainly one of my favourite meals of the trip – but then I did have a lot of favourite meals!
Here is Vasco at the table while we were waiting for lunch to be served.
Finally, the wines. Some of these wine used the “Aphros” spelling on the label - this is used to avoid the hair-style connotations that “Afros” might have in the USA. Note that all the wines were from the Lima sub-region of Vinho Verde, and Loureiro and Vinhão are the white and red grape varieties used for these wine. Where available, I have given approximate UK retail prices.
Afros, Ten, Vinho Verde, Loureiro, Branco, 2011, 12%
Watery green. Intense, fresh, floral and lemon. Medium high acidity. Soft and creamy. Excellent length. Drink now ****
Afros, Daphne, Vinho Verde, Loureiro, Branco, 2011, 12%
This has some skin maceration. Watery green. Intense, fresh, floral and lemon. Medium high acidity. Reminded me a little of red lips sweets. Excellent length ****
Afros, Vinho Verde, Loureiro, Branco, 2009, 12%, £13.00
Watery green. Intense. Petrol, lemon, peach. Not overpowering. Medium high acid. Soft on the palate. Excellent length ****
Afros, Espumante de Vinho Verde, Loureiro, Reserva, 2008, 12%
Pale green. Intense. Fresh, yeasty. Medium acidity. Soft and light. Excellent length *****
Afros, Vinho Verde, Vinhão, Tinto, 2009, 12.5%, £13.00
Opaque purple. Intense sweet dark fruit. Medium high acid. Low tannin. Slightly frizzante? Drink now ****
Afros, Silenus, Vinho Verde, Vinhão, 2009, 13.5%
Aged in barriques. Opaque purple. Crispy bacon. Medium high acid. Low tannin. Drink now ****
Afros, Espumante de Vinho Verde, Vinhão, Super Reserva, 12%
NV, but this was from 2005 and 2008. Intense purple ruby. Intense funky dark fruit. Medium acid. Dry. Drink now ***
I am afraid some of the details of the wines got a bit hazy towards the end, but I think I have them right. We were also offered a fortified red at the end of the meal, but if I remember correctly this was not commercially available.
Overall, I was very impressed by these wines. What I remember best after several weeks were the white wines. These were not recognisable as the cheap and cheerful Vinho Verde that I remember from the UK. But neither were they like the intense and searing Vihno Verde Alvarinho variants that I enjoyed a few times in Porto on this trip. The memory that lingers is one of soft, subtle and nuanced wine – a bit like the image of the vineyards at the top of this post.