At New York Nolita wine merchants, Portugal’s wine selection tends to feature easy-drinking Alvarinhos alongside established Port producers like Niepoort. But the shop’s shoppers recently introduced a few new bottles of a variety that has recently begun to gain traction among Portuguese winemakers and global wine lovers: Avesso.
If you’re not familiar with Avesso, no one will blame you. After all, Portugal is home to 250 native grape varieties and, given the importance of field planting to Portuguese winemaking, you may have had Avesso in northern white blends without knowing it.
Historically, the Avesso grape was mainly planted in the Baião de Vinho Verde sub-region, which borders the Douro. Baião’s shale and granite soils were fantastic for Avesso’s crisp, fruity acidity and low alcohol levels. However, farmers in many other Vinho Verde regions, including Amarante, Paiva and Sousa, have recently started planting more Avesso grapes, in part because more winemakers have started bottling varietal vintages.
According to Rodolfo Tristão, a sommelier who previously oversaw wine programs at Michelin-starred Lisbon restaurants Belcanto and Alma, winemakers previously only used Avesso as a blending varietal to add more fresh acidity to both. the most used grape varieties in the region, Alvarinho and Loureiro. . With its lower ABV (alcohol by volume), Avesso was the perfect varietal to keep Vinho Verde blends easy to drink.
Since 2020, however, Tristão says he has seen more and more winemakers looking to showcase grapes alone. Avesso grapes can make a “style of wine that people want to drink now: low alcohol, fruity, acidic,” he says, adding that Avesso could become a trendy wine to drink in the summer, especially in the summer. Portugal when temperatures are high. require cold drinks.
Carlos Teixeira, winemaker at Quinta da Lixa, recently started producing the Avesso grape variety. Known for its value-driven Vinho Verde wines, Teixeira also bottled the first sparkling-natural in the region by mixing Loureiro and Alvarinho. In March 2022, he released his first Avesso wines. The three Avessos cover a single-harvest 2016 vintage created with aging in mind, a single-harvest wine in contact with the skin from 2018, and a blend of five Avesso vintages.
For Teixeira, releasing so many grapes at once was intentional: he wanted to show the variety’s versatility.
“With these three wines, I tried to explore the full potential of the grapes and the great terroir of our region,” he says. “I wanted them to be a great mirror of the region.”
Like many Vinho Verdes, Teixeira is betting big on the future of Avesso: last year his team at Quinta da Lixa began planting nearly 20 more hectares of grapes in the Sousa sub-region of the hope to start harvesting from this vineyard in three years. .
Antonio Sousa, a viticulture and winemaking consultant who has worked with Avesso for decades, is also actively pushing for the expansion of the varietal.
“More and more, I try to promote the planting of Avesso because I think it is a variety that can improve the reputation of Vinho Verde to a higher, more superior level of quality,” he says.
He also sees no limit to his potential. While many associate Vinho Verde wines with summer drinking, Sousa thinks the aromatic complexity of Avesso could make it an ideal white wine for winter.
Currently, access to the Avesso variety is limited. Even in Portugal, very few sommeliers serve it. In Porto, The YeatmanThe extensive inventory includes four Avesso vintages, but many other restaurants might only carry one.
In the northern city of Guimarães, at the Michelin-starred restaurant A Cozinhasommelier Hélder Silva’s one Avesso (from Quinta da Raza) is often poured to accompany Chef Antonio Loureiro’s crayfish entrée. Silva likes how the wine’s floral elegance complements the dish’s equally delicate flavors, and thinks the accompanying richer carrot broth plays beautifully with Avesso’s natural acidity. “Together they create a pleasant and harmonious sensation on the taste buds,” he says.
Back at Nolita Wine Merchants in New York, two Avessos from Quinto of Santa Teresa were introduced in November 2021. A 2020 skin contact, which Gary Swantner, head of private client sales, says “drinks almost like a rosé, with lots of floral notes,” sold well. “It’s a great table wine, very clean and easy to drink,” says Swantner, explaining that since its debut, it’s a wine they’ve constantly reorganized so there’s always stock on the shelves. .
“Of all the unique Vinho Verde varietals, Avesso caught my eye more than the others, which is saying a lot,” says Swantner. “But the sale is usually quite simple: if the customer likes fresh, unoaked white, they’ll probably like Avesso.”