The Wines of Rui Cunha: The Length and Breadth of Portugal

As we highlight in our October 2010 report on The New Wines of Portugal, the itinerant consulting winemaker is an increasingly familiar figure in Portugal’s modern wineries. Rui Cunha is one of the more prominent consultants, and we tasted his wines at Portugal’s only biodynamic wine estate, Casal do Paço Padreiro, located near Arcos de Valdevez in the Lima River Valley (Vinho Verde) that runs from the mountains to the Atlantic. Here he makes the Afros Loureiro, an exceptionally tasty white wine showing considerable purity of fruit. Other wines at Casal do Paço include a sparkling wine, Afros Reserva Espumante, made from Loureiro that spend 18 months sur lie, Afros Vinhão, a youthful red wine made from the Vinhão grape, and a Sparkling Vinhão Reserva that spends 21 months on the lees. This is some of the very best Vinhão one can find produced in Vinho Verde. Elsewhere in Vinho Verde, Rui makes wine at Casa das Buganvílias, Sousa Lopes, and Quinta de Massôrra.

Moving to the east, Rui also makes wines at Valle Pradinhos in Tras-o-Montes. This is a former resort located north of the Douro, and the wines include a white blend Vinho Branco, a red blend Vinho Tinto, and a Reserva, a vineyard and barrel selection aged 16 months in new oak and hugely flavored and lush. These red wines also age well, at least the 1991 Vinho Tinto we tried was still fresh, albeit with evolved dried fruit, earth and herbal flavors.

Rui makes wines from the Douro under his own label, Secret Spot Wine. His Crooked Vines Vinho Branco is a field blend of white varietals fermented in oak and left sur lie for 8 months. It is a refined and elegant drink. There’s also a Crooked Wines Vinho Tinto from old vines in the Douro and a Red Douro that explains the name of the brand. Each year a different, secret single vineyard in the Douro is selected to provide the fruit for this bottling. Rui wouldn’t reveal the grapes or the vineyard location of his current, delicious 2005 vintage.

Aside from his own wines, Rui also makes wines at the following Douro wineries: Quinta das Apegadas, Quinta dos Avidagos, Vallegre, Quinta de Carvalhosa, and Quinta do Romeu. Moving further south, he also makes wine in the Alentejo (Monte Barrão), and Lisboa (Adraga).

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