Mendes At Work

Mendes makes some lovely wines,
but he is guilty of bottling one of them in this seriously ugly bottle
Anselmo Mendes - Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde, more than almost any other style of Portuguese wine, thrives on freshness and vitality, underappreciated qualities almost everywhere. All too often, we are captivated by weight and profundity. If I'm being totally honest, Vinho Verde is not really my go-to Portuguese white, but that's only because I find the same vitality in Dao, Duoro and Bairada, where they're accompanied by otherworldly exoticism and tense, mineral-driven complexity, which I haven't found in Vinho Verde, so far.

It's very under-represented in Israel. The only big name that ever made it here is Soalheiro, and even then only the regular Albarihno (a fine wine in its own right). Thanks to Eyal Mermelstein, we can now enjoy a wide and deep range from Anselmo Mendes, arguably the brightest name in Vinho Verde.

Pay attention. You won't get tested on this stuff, but you definitely need to drink it.

The Moncao and Melgaco, Expressoes, 2017, which I'm sipping now (Nov. 30, 3019), is just as exciting and and frothy with minerals as a Dao, Duoro or Bairada white. I first tasted it at Itay Gleitman's Portugal tasting a couple of months ago. I loved it a lot, and the potential was obvious, but tasting a glass offers a narrower perspective than a bottle at home, which is a luxury I can avail myself of now that Eyal Mermelstein has started importing a good portion of the lineup (Mendes makes a lot of wines, as many Portuguese producers are likely to do).

Mendes is an "acclaimed winemaker and consultant", according to the Hugh Johnson Pocketbook, which isn't always innocent of hyperbole, but at least tends to report only commonly accepted hyperbole. Whatever, this wine, which as far as I can make from the producer's website, is the flagship, would make a winemaker's reputation, showing stunning focus and understated intensity. The saline finish is mouthwatering enough to demand food, but the wine speaks volumes alone. 

Earlier in the day, we had the Muros Antigos, Loureiro, 2018, which is made solely of the Loureiro grape from the Lima Valley in the greater Vinho Verde region. It's what I had in mind when I said freshness was underestimated. It's the kind of zesty, limey, salty wine you wish you had a double magnum of. Eyal's restaurant, Tchernichovsky, specializes in Portuguese dishes (mostly seafood) and serves the wines he imports from Portugal. I've eaten and drank just about everything on the menu and this was the best food and wine pairing ever. The Muros Antigos, Alvarinho, 2018 is fruitier and less saline, my preference is for the Loureiro. 

I drank the rest of the lineup in incongruous December winter weather. These are obviously summer wines, but I'm sure anyone who loves the style enough to have gotten this far into this winding post won't mind.

Monção and Melgaço, Alvarinho Contacto, 2018 goes through short skin contact, as the name suggests. That process is light-handed enough to coax a mineral streak, without losing the grape's typical floral freshness. Four months aging on its lees in barrels also did not have any impact on that freshness, just added its bit to highlight the minerality. Lovely finish here, in a wine that has little competition in its price range on the local market.

The Muros de Melgaço, Alvarinho, 2018 arrives in the ugliest bottle known to mankind. Seriously, if Kim Il-Sung had designed a lava lamp, this is what it'd look like. What's inside, though, is true to the variety, zesty and fresh and, more than any of the lineup, shows green flavors and aromas that live up to the verde in Vinho Verde. Think of green peas for context. There's a pungent intensity to the aromas that I always associate with chalk and ocean spray, but underlining that, and present in the flavors as well, are hints of mellow sweetness reminiscent of cantaloupe. Very harmonious and balanced.