The highlight of the whole trip for me was our visit to Afros (www.afros-wine.com), also known as Casal do Paço, where we met owner Vasco Croft. In producer terms, this is a small-scale, handcrafted operation. Vasco has a 20ha farm and only 7ha under vine, cultivated biodynamically and producing 20,000 bottles a year (5,000 litres), although he aims to increase this to 100,000 bottles eventually. Although the family have owned this property since the 17th century they are new to wine production and this is only their 4th vintage.

Perhaps it was the pervading sense of calm and peacefulness that made this visit so attractive, together with the warmth, hospitality and slightly spiritual air of our host who had more than a passing resemblance to Richard Gere. Vasco Croft

Or perhaps it was the beautifully rustic surroundings of the family dinning room accompanied by Vasco's family (bother, sister in law and young daughter) and the delightful lunch which started with a very fresh and fragrant sparkling wine aperitive and a colourful salad of wild flowers, goats cheese and figs, followed by delicately flavoured black pasta with cream and ham.

What stood out as well of course was the obvious high quality of the wines; it all made for a special occasion. The white wines had a lovely purity and delicacy and the reds were a revelation.

Vasco also made a very useful broad comment on Portugal – “The north is cool and, the colours are all green and blue, the soils are granite and the people are traditionally more right-wing; the south is hot and the colours are red and yellow with limestone soils and it is politically left-wing."



According to Vasco, Vinhão (the deeply-coloured red variety widely used in Vinho Verde) “is like a wild flower of the forest. You need to give some finesse to its wildness. It is a challenge to work with and to drink”.

For me, the red Vinho Verde 2005 here made from Vinhão was the best red wine we tasted on the whole trip. It won a silver medal at the Decanter Wine Awards - a surprise for everyone involved as Vinho Verde reds are not supposed to be suited to the British palate.

Afros Vinhão 2005 – Still very youthful opaque purple core and narrow rim – smoky, leathery notes on the nose are followed by spice and dried rose petals and perfume notes. Very smooth initial attack on the palate with a good weight of creamy, dark berry fruit and dried roses and floral notes – smooth, powerful and long. Vasco certainly tamed Vinhão’s wildness in this one.

We also tried the 2007 Afros Vinhão which was a bit impenetrable and very young but also smooth and densely flavoured. There was also a sparkling red Vinhão which was a big success with many of our group. Bright purple in colour, with rubber and mint notes and lively raspberry and blackberry fruit. Unusual but very enjoyable.

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