A for me new Vinho Verde producer. These wines set a new benchmark for what can be made in the region. Light and transparent wines, but detailed and delicate, very nuanced. The Coche-Dury of Vinho Verde?
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Vasco Croft puts the dynamic into biodynamic, the holistic method of farming of which he has been a pioneer in Vinho Verde (and which you can read all about on his website) here.
Since I last visited the former furniture designer and trained architect's Vinho Verde estate in Ponte de Lima in 2010, the portfolio has undergone a facelift with a new name (Aphros not Afros) and labels.
Croft explains the name change was prompted by a request from the USA, his biggest export market, who were concerned about possible confusion with Africa or the African hairstyle. Fortunately (Croft doesn't strike me as the type to compromise) he says, "because this is the Greek way of spelling, it is in tune with the origin of the name, meaning the Mythical Foam from which Aphrodite arises." So all's well that ends well.
As for the labels which have a motif of three interlocking circles, these were developed from engravings by his cousin José Pedro Croft, an international plastics artist. It wasn't just the family connection which appealed to Croft. He explains, "I hope this image will be a refreshing wind in the world of wine labels and bring contemporary art and wine close to each other." Speaking of which, I reckon Portuguese wine labels are improving. They're more colourful and characterful, which helps wines to stand out on the shelf and gives customers an inkling of the people behind the wines. A very good thing.
But it's what's in the bottle that really counts and, at Aphros, the changes go well beyond skin deep. Croft has been steadily expanding the portfolio with an ambitious oaked Vinhão (Aphros Silenus), Aphros Rosé, Aphros "Ten" (a low alcohol, 10% abv, Loureiro), Daphne (a very exciting Loureiro which undergoes skin contact) and, most recently, AETHER (a 50:50 blend of Loureiro and, to my surprise, Sauvignon Blanc, a non-native).
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At the centre of our new Quinta, we shall finally have, hopefully for next harvest, the cellar we have been dreaming of for years.
Built mainly of concrete,with a contemporary design and functionality, it shall decisively improve our working conditions. Centralized storage and labour spaces, in a temperature controlled building, will allow our wines the care and restfulness they deserve after some years of truly "gipsy life".