Wine enthusiasts who are searching for unique and authentic wines, should try these magnificent wines of the Azores. The Azores are an archipelago located 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal. Pico, the principal island, has windswept vineyards of extremely poor volcanic black soils. [see map below] These vineyards, protected by basaltic walls, are the source of an important indigenous grape known as Arinto dos Açores. Verdelho is another important local variety. We review several Azores wines produced by the Azores Wine Company (Vinhos dos Açores).
The vineyards of the Azores are in extreme conditions, very close to the sea and planted on volcanic fissures. The sea sprays the vineyards with salt, and creates the brackish water below the vines. Stone walls constructed 500 years ago help protect the vines from the elements; they are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site created in 2004.
The renowned enologist António Maçanita is the winemaker at the Azores Wine Company, a joint venture created in 2014 to produce authentic wines from the indigenous grapes of the Azores. He previously made wine at Merryvale in Napa, D’Arenberg in Australia, and Château Lynch Bages in Bordeaux. The other partners include economist and hospitality industry expert Filipe Rocha and Paulo Machado, a viticulturist responsible for growing vines in this most challenging environment. Reviewed here are two styles of Arinto, as well as blends of Arinto and Verdelho and a 100% Verdelho. The wines are imported by Ole & Obrigado.
Azores Wine Company 2018 Arinto dos Açores Non Sur Lies Pico Azores Islands ($57) 92 An exceptionally fresh and bright wine. Unctuous and dense, evoking liquid minerals, with notes of herbal tea and citrus and vibrant acidity. Crisp finish with excellent persistence. Made from the Arinto, which is indigenous to the Azores and a descendant from Verdelho. Unrelated to the Arinto grown on the mainland, this grape produces wines of searing citrus and vibrant minerality not unlike the Assyrtiko grape one finds on the Greek island of Santorini.
Azores Wine Company 2018 Arinto dos Açores Sur Lies Pico Azores Islands ($63) 93 The Arinto dos Açores Sur Lies displays a nose of lemon citrus and grapefruit. Soft and round on the palate, it reveals light leesy notes of melon with rich extract and good citric acidity, It has a highly satisfying lingering finish. A magnificent food wine.
Azores Wine Company 2018 Branco Vulcánico Pico Azores Islands ($35) 91+ The Branco Vulcánico is a blend of 50% Arinto and 50% Verdelho. It displays floral notes on the nose with hints of herbal tea and minerals. Full and round on the palate, it offers flavors of citrus and dried herbs with hints honey. It is crisp with good acidity and has a pleasant finish.
Azores Wine Company 2018 Verdelho O Original Pico Azores Islands ($52) 92 The Verdlho O Original is a lovely wine. 100% Verdelho do Pico, it offers a fruity nose and a flavorful palate of lemon citrus with mineral notes. It is a nicely focused wine bright, pure and mouth filling with a soft elegant texture and a long finish. Cuttings of Verdelho do Pico were carried to Australia in 1824.