The origins of the Antão Vaz grape varieties are extremely vague; little is known of its provenance other than it originates from the Alentejo. As it has not travelled much out of the region, Antão Vaz has no other synonyms.
The variety has attained star status in Vidigueira and Évora, sub-regions that generate Antão Vaz wines of great complexity.
The variety is loved by vine growers and winemakers alike, ex libris of the Alentejo and heart and soul of its finest white wines.
Being a hot-climate grape variety, Antão Vaz is particularly well-suited to the Alentejo's sun-drenched plains and highly resistant to drought and disease. It has consistently reliable yields which ripen evenly. As a rule it produces perfumed, well-structured, firm and full-bodied wines, although in adverse conditions they may lack refreshing and reinvigorating acidity. For that reason it is often blended with Roupeiro and Arinto wines to ensure a natural, sharper acidity.
If harvested early Antão Vaz will originate vibrant, acidic wine with exotic aromas, firm on the palate. If the grapes are picked late the results will have higher alcohol content and more perfumed aromas, ideally suited for ageing in new-oak barrels.
When bottled as a varietal wine, Antão Vaz shows aromas of ripe tropical fruit, tangerine peel with discreet mineral notes.
Arinto is such a versatile variety that it has spread through most of Portugal, taking on quite disparate names depending on the region. These include Pedernã, Pé de Perdiz Branco (White Partridge Foot), Chapeludao, Cerceal, Azal Espanhol, Azal Galego and Branco Espanhol (Spanish White)!
It produces fresh, tense and vibrant wines with high natural acidity and marked mineral profile with good ageing potential. Unyielding acidity is Arinto's calling card, and it is precisely for that reason that it is described as being the Alentejo's best blending variety.
While Arinto is most famed in the Bucelas denominated wine region, where it is traditionally bottled as a varietal wine, in the Alentejo its grapes are used more in blends to provide that all-important acidity. It has a discreet aroma with no pretensions of exuberance or intensity, showing notes of green apple, lemon and lime accompanied by a vegetal character and mineral pungency. In specific cases it may take on a tropical character, evoking the exoticism of passion fruit.
Lengthy macerations and fermentations at low temperature put back any lustre that may have been lost. Oak fermentation also suits Arinto, although ageing potential in bottle is lost in this process.
This is a grape variety of extremes that is loved by some and hated by others.
Little is known of its origins, although the vast genetic variability it shows would suggest it has been grown in Portugal for a very long time. Its geographic distribution is quite singular, extending down a long, narrow strip from north of the country to the south, hugging the Spanish border.
It has a diversity of names depending on the region, ranging from Siria, Alvadourão, Crato Branco, Malvasia Grossa, Códega and Alva to Dona Branca. But its Alentejo name is the most well-known, the region where Roupeiro is still the most widely-planted white grape variety.
In the 1980s Roupeiro was considered to be the Alentejo's most representative white grape, showing the most promise and relevance for the region.
It is a recommended variety in almost all the sub-regions for its high yields and exuberant primary aromas. It shows perfumed and seductive citrus notes of orange and lemon with hints of peach, melon, laurel and forest flowers. The trait which brings its detractors is that it loses the initial aromatic exuberance very quickly, becoming neutral and predictable after some months in bottle.
The outcome is that Roupeiro wine has limited cellaring, making it better suited for high-turnover wines with short shelf-life.