Ask anyone for the best Alvarinho in Portugal and people will point to the extreme north in the sub-region of Moncao and Melgao, right on the border with Spain. Nortico Alvarinho is a superb example of the grape's hallmarks: fresh citrus, peach and tropical aromas paired with clean, juicy fruit and vibrant minerality. Nortico is produced on the south bank of the Minho River in plots so small they are called "Jardins", gardens in Portuguese. Soils here are granite and schist, and although it rains a lot (2,000 ml annually) the inland area is a little warmer than the coastal plantings, which allows for perfect ripening. In the words of Rui Abecassis, founder of Obrigado, “Nortico Alvarinho is one of those projects that has been in the making for quite some time. It started in my family's small tile atelier, where I learned to love tiles. The traditional ceramic tile atelier was more a labor of passion and tenacity than business, as it always seemed to be on the brink of bankruptcy! To this day, tiles are produced exactly like in the 18th century, each 14 x 14 cm tile shaped from scratch and painted by hand. Walking the streets of Oporto or Lisboa you may encounter tiles on both modest and important buildings, in churches, hospitals, and stores, in private houses and public gardens. Tiles are a durable building material, and an early form of storytelling and graphic design. We wanted the Nortico label to evoke those tiles to capture that spirit and Portuguese aesthetics.
Nortico is from tiny vineyard plots in Moncao and Melgao, on the northern border with Spain's Galicia province - the best Alvarinho growing area in Portugal. Unlike others from the area, Nortico has no added CO2, making for a richer, fuller, well-balanced wine.
Best known for intense, impressive and age-worthy fortified wines, Portugal relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to its north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west and south coasts, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, due to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. A long and narrow but small country, Portugal claims considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast.
While Port (named after its city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast at the end of the Douro Valley), made Portugal famous, Portugal is also an excellent source of dry red and white Portuguese wines of various styles.
The Douro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red Portuguese wines made from the same set of grape varieties used for Port, which include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, among a long list of others in minor proportions.
Other dry Portuguese wines include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine, made in the north, and the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão as well as the bold, and fruit-driven reds and whites of the southern, Alentejo.
The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast.
Bright and aromatic with distinctive floral and fruity characteristics, Albariño has enjoyed a surge in popularity and an increase in plantings over the last couple of decades. Thick skins allow it to withstand the humid conditions of its homeland, Rías Baixas, Spain, free of malady, and produce a weighty but fresh white. Somm Secret—Albariño claims dual citizenship in Spain and Portugal. Under the name Alvarinho, it thrives in Portugal’s northwestern Vinho Verde region, which predictably, borders part of Spain’s Rías Baixas.