Quinta de Santiago: some lovely naturally inclined wines from Vinho Verde, Portugal

Website: Quinta de Santiago

I tasted these wines with Joana Santiago, who came to work at her family estate in 2009 after 15 years as a lawyer. Previously, the grapes had gone to the cooperative, but now it was time for them to be made into the wines at the quinta itself.

‘I’m not a winemaker,’ she says, ‘and I’m not from the wine business.’ She began making wines like these we tasted – more naturally inclined and with more personality – without the assistance of the winemaker who had been responsible for the wines of Santiago. For a long time, she says, they employed a very conservative winemaker who came from the region. ‘Wines like these I did without my winemaker.’ She decided that she wanted to work more naturally, and do wild ferments. He wasn’t receptive, so she started her own sub-brand, with the help of Nuno Mira Do Ó, called Sou. Apparently, the winemaker was forbidden to touch these wines!

Nuno was involved with these special projects from 2018, and from 2022 has been winemaker across the range. These are really interesting wines.

Sou Alvarinho 2021 Vinho Verde, Portugal
This is a joint venture with Mira Do Ó, and the grapes come from alluvial river terraces in Monçao, Very pure and textural with lively mineral notes and a slight salinity. Has a bright citrus core with depth and some hints of peach and melon. Refined and textural, this is so good. 94/100

Rascunho Alvarinho 2019 Vinho Verde, Portugal
This was from three barrels that were destined to be base wines for sparkling, but were left to see the evolution as a still wine. Joana doesn’t use any SO2 for sparkling base, and this wine had 9.5 g/l TA. After two years on lees with no added sulfites some reductive aromas appeared so she bottled it, with no additions. Apple, mineral and textural with some pear and crystalline citrus. Really nice texture here: this is really expressive and is all about the mouthfeel. 94/100

Cisma Loureiro 2020 Vinho Verde, Portugal
11.5% alcohol. This is a joint venture with Pedro Coelho from Pormenor. The grapes are given a short 24 maceration before pressing in an old basket press, and half goes to barrel, half to tank, on total lees. The lees are worked, and there is no SO2 until bottling. Very linear and taut with high acidity. Has a distinctive stony character. Bright with lovely lemony acidity. 92/100

Sou Ramadas 2021 Vinho Verde, Portugal
This is from old vines grown on a ramada (pergola system). Mainly Alvarelhão, but also Burrascal, Caino, Vinhão and others. A field blend. Vinified in stainless steel with 50% whole bunch, for just a few days. Supple and bright with lovely cherry and raspberry fruit, with some mineral notes. Very drinkable with a touch of sour cherry on the finish. 93/100

Sou Alvarelhão 2020 Vinho Verde, Portugal
This is a joint venture with Mira do Ó. Very supple with lovely acidity, showing cherry and raspberry fruit with a sour cherry twist. Keen acidity here: very bright and focused. A lovely lighter red, but it has some substance to it. 94/100

Santiago na Ânfora do Rocim Alvarinho 2021 Vinho Verde, Portugal
A collaboration wine with Rocim’s Pedro Ribeiro. Fermented without skins in Italian amphora, then aged six months in that. Beautifully expressive with some lovely apricot and pear aromas, and a pure, mineral, linear palate of lemon, mandarin and some exotic apricot notes. Kept honest by high acidity, which dominates on the finish. A remarkable linear wine with amazing precision, finishing a little saline. 95/100