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The Luso-Galician Polymath

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Partly due to the legacy of the Reconquista from 718 to 1492, northern Portugal shares much in common with the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia (not to be confused with the homonymous region of Galicia of Poland and Ukraine), whether in terms of language and landscape, architecture and music, or cuisine and wine.
In this temperate region of wooded hills and meandering rivers, a highly versatile indigenous white variety shines more brightly than any other. Otherwise known as Albariño in Spanish and Galician, Alvarinho from Portugal’s Vinho Verde region might be the country’s answer to Riesling. Presumably because of its varietal characteristics and name (Alba-Riño literally means “White Rhine”), Alvarinho was for long mistaken as a Riesling clone from Alsace brought to Iberia by the Cluny monks from Burgundy. En passant, Alvarinho is not related to the Leonese variety of Albarin Blanco either.
In addition to its intense acidity and profuse aromatics, Alvarinho’s stylistic versatility is perhaps singular in the Iberian Peninsula. Whereas Galician versions can be either single-varietal or blended, Portuguese Alvarinho, notably those from the municipalities of Melgaço and Monção, tends to be single-varietal. There, styles of Alvarinho wines range from still, lightly petillant, to full sparkling; light- to full-bodied, whether with oak influence or lees ageing.
Situated in Monção, a municipality along the Luso-Spanish border in northern Portugal, Palácio da Brejoeira is a prime example of Portuguese Baroque architecture. Comprising 18ha of vineyards planted exclusively with Alvarinho, Quinta da Brejoeira demonstrates yet another facet of this highly versatile variety. Perhaps a well-kept secret known only to the Portuguese, but Alvarinho can make distinctly fragrant brandy and pomace brandy.

Palácio da Brejoeira Aguardente Bagaceira

A traditional Portuguese bagaceira (pomace brandy) made exclusively from Alvarinho. Pure transparent in appearance, the perfumed and refined nose reveals mirabelle, glutinous rice, brioche and aniseed, infused with thyme and cut grass. With vivacious acidity, the aromatic and bucolic palate presents dried prune, oatmeal, husk, burdock and pine nuts, elaborated with oregano. Medium-full bodied at 45%, the clear entry continues through a focused mid-palate, leading to a persistent finish. A delicate and floral pomace brandy.

Palácio da Brejoeira Aguardente Velha

An authentic Portuguese aguardente velha (aged brandy) made exclusively from Alvarinho, aged in French oak – Angoulême and Limousin – barriques for 10 to 12 years, followed by additional bottle ageing. Mellow tawny with glossy tangelo reflex, the scented and supple nose offers Seville orange, peach, walnut, milk chocolate and nutmeg, decorated with rosemary. With dynamic acidity, the intricate and redolent palate delivers orange peel, apricot, rye, caramel and gingerbread, garnished with fennel. Medium-full bodied at 40%, the measured entry evolves into a concentrated mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish. A fragrant and suave brandy.

To experience the charm of Portuguese spirits, contact Mr Pedro Lobo of Palatium Fine Wines; W: www.palatiumwines.com; E: pedro.lobo@palatiumwines.com; T: +852 2875 0782

Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages.

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