Alveirao's terroirAlveirão

Coordinates GPS - N39o31’2’’ W8o30’8’’

The first time I met the men who worked Alveirão, Rogério Vieira and Luís Vieira, I instantly sensed they had created something very special. Up on the wall of the, now obsolete, old family adega was a black and white photo from 1957. It showed a father guiding a white bull working a vineyard with his young sons enjoying a ride on its back—the old gentlemen as children.

The father in the photo had once kept wine in concrete tanks that his father had installed in place of his father’s lagar and large wooden tons. What remained constant throughout the generations was their grandfather’s father’s vineyard was still worked today.

Viera brothers and Rui GouloWhen their father died in 1998, five Vieira brothers came together and decided to continue growing grapes in his honour exactly as he had always done—organically. The only difference now is they’ve gained official certification for their efforts. They also moved from the tiny adega to an old suckling pig shed—cleaned up and renovated of course—adding, refrigerated, stainless steel tanks as their one small tip towards modernization.

The brothers told me about an old cross outside the village that was raised on a hill where people desperately prayed once to be spared the coming plague of phylloxera. After phylloxera came, and destroyed, no one prayed there anymore. The cross is virtually forgotten now. What few realize today is that Torres Noves area was once a prime wine region, most especially famous for its whites. Farmers only switched to figs—for which the region is now so admired—after the total collapse brought by phylloxera.suckling pigs have flown the coup

But a few held on, keeping faith with grapes.

Alveirão’s main asset is the old family vineyard. There the terroir almost leaps off the landscape at you.  Vines curve along the steep slopes, following the lie of the land, hugging bowl-shaped hills that capture and reflect sun back at them. Machines have not tamed this land, nor steered its vines into uniform, sun chasing straight lines, nor turned its topsoil. Nor could they really, given the angular, irregularity of the slopes. Vines have no choice but to conform to whatever the terroir throws at them.

Alverio is the name given by locals to the special white soil that carpets only Alveirão’s vineyard, shaping its wines’ essential characters. Just as in Burgundy, splotches, speckles and belts of active limestone break through the surface of this ultra-thin, highly infertile topsoil. What becomes obvious is the ongoing geological process, where vines are forced to dig their roots ever more deeply into the limestone bedrock to survive.food for thought

After their father’s death, the brothers expanded five hectares of old vineyards, out to twenty, with room to expand another forty following the boundaries of the white, calcium rich soil. The oldest vineyards, hoed and tended by hand, mix together Castelão, Trincadeira, Fernao Pires and other traditional whites. These dance defiantly along the hill refusing to line up neatly into straighter, more easily tended rows. The newer vines, wired up and a little better behaved, have added Malvasia Fina, Arinto, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and a touch more Castelão and Trincadeira for good measure. There are no French grapes here, Alveirão is about maintaining Portuguese purity.

What I like about Alveirão wines is they are full of personality, along with being very honest, healthful statements about where they came from and the people who made them. Very reasonably priced, given their organic certificatoin, I like the messages they send in a bottle

Wines

Alveirão Maximo’s vinho Branco 2011 Blends the older white vines, Fernao Pires and Malvasia Fina, with Arinto to create a big boned, rounded, and dense, minerally driver, but full of sweetly ripe grape characters as well. Like a great salad, its oily texture is cut with just enough acidity.

Alveirão Encostas do Vale Godinho 2008 is a powerful and spirity statement of pure Castelão, packed with plum, prune and mineral characters. This is wine to curl up next to a fire with in winter: full bodied, fleshy, but also structured with grippy tannins and lowish acidity.

Alveirão Encostas do Vale Godinho 2005, blending Castelão, Aragonez and Trincadeira, is less about fruit and more about savory game and leathery aromas.        

Alveirão Maximo’s 2008 is spirity and full of super ripe Touriga-driven, black fruit and violet-like perfume. Its thick, plush textures are held in place by firm acidity and tannins.

Alveirão Maximo’s 2009 mixes Aragonez, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca. Offering a fresh,complex mélange of dried, red and black fruit characters and smelling of spice and flowers, it is densely concentrated and velvety, supported by fine, dusty tannins and juicy flavors.