We kick off our Douro Harvest 2016 tour with a new favorite, Aneto Wines, a vineyard we hadn’t visited before but had admired on Instagram via Mario Teixeira’s feed (@tex_mt) offering a behind the scenes look at the production of Aneto’s wines. We were very excited to be invited for a tour and tasting by owner and winemaker Francisco Montenegro, who introduced us to his incredible lineup of wines and their newly built cellar in Penajoia.
Overlooking the Douro river, the views from the cellar are absolutely stunning. The building itself is a perfect reflection of the next generation of Douro winemaking, the balance of the old and the new: a modern, stainless steel lagar strangely seems right at home in a rustic stone building proudly displaying it’s preserved wood beam ceiling, which has no doubt housed generation after generation of Douro wines. Francisco is also not afraid to experiment with foreign grape varieties, his Pinot Noir was first released only recently in 2010. Like many other modern winemakers in the region today, they are always in touch with their roots, honoring their heritage while still evolving the wines, and leaving their own signature on the brand.
The white grape varieties are Semillon, Gouveio, Viosinho, Arinto, Rabigato, Malvasia Fina and Cerceal, which come from the nearby Barrôa and Penajóia vineyards. The red varieties are the usual suspects for the region: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão and Souzão, which come from Sobradais and Malvêdos, Castedo do Douro. Aging is first done in stainless still tanks, for malolactic fermentation, then moved to new and used french oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months.
Francisco showed us around the winery himself, and the love that he has for the property and the process is very clearly present in the wines he then showcased for us in the tasting that followed. We were lucky enough to get a full spread of Aneto wines, and also very fortunate to enjoy them from their beautiful tasting room that overlooks their aging cellar, with the picturesque Douro Valley sprawling behind it. Unlike other places it was very hard for us to pick our top-three, so we’ll leave you with the tasting notes for all of them. We started, of course, with the whites…
Branco Colheita 2015: An excellent balance of fruit and acidity, this wine surprised us all for its freshness. Its youth was very elegantly balanced, it’s flavor profile seeming mature for its age;
Branco Reserva: Definitely a step up from the Colheita, this Reserve had top marks for balance and elegance, yet again. Very good body from its cask aging, while not being overpowering or excessive in it’s wood notes.
Grande Reserva Branco: This Grand Reserve was actually younger than the Reserve we tried, but we could taste its amazing potential. Much more elaborate on the palate, with each sip we could pick up more and more undertones and flavors. It was nicely dry and had great acidity, again a very delicate and elegant wine. Definitely one to look out for.
We then moved on to this year’s Rose 2016: Like several other quality Rose’s that we’ve seen come out of the Douro in recent years, this wine is nicely dry. It has strong hints of strawberry, balanced acidity and youth, like you’d expect from a Rose. Overall a very elegant wine, and a great choice if you want something light and fruity.
On to the reds, which we were particularly excited for, especially after taking the tour and seeing one of the batches still fermenting in the stainless steel lagar…
Colheita Tinto 2011: We were fortunate to start this off with a 2011, and although it was a great year I was not expecting a Colheita would be this incredible. We learned that at Aneto all wines might age longer than the average. This wine was bursting with red fruit and struck the perfect balance between body, minerality and smooth, rounded tannins. It was nicely dry and still had several young characteristics, though it seemed to be well into its peak.
Reserva Tinto 2012: This was another very elegant and well-rounded wine, expertly crafted. It shows potential to age at least another 2 years, making it an excellent wine to hold on to. However, the fun part of trying this one was comparing it to its younger brother, who came next…
Reserva Tinto 2013: Francisco had told us that he had just blended the 2013 Reserve, but didn’t tell us he’d be treating us to a sample of it. The contrast to the previous one was definitely clear: it was equally fruity and definitely still felt much younger and wilder, especially in the tannins;
Grande Reserva Tinto 2016: This wine was truly different from what we had tasted so far. It was bold and strong, definitely still asking to be smoothed out with time in the bottle. It shows tremendous potential, and I’m sure it will develop a very nicely rounded fruit undertones once it is left to grow and mature. Definitely one to keep, a sound investment for sure;
Pinot Noir: Growing up in Portugal and honing my wine palate on Portuguese wines I have a natural distrust of single varietals, and very little exposure to foreign ones. Fortunately innovative winemakers like Francisco are around to show me the error of my ways. This wine is a great take on this varietal, very light and with great vegetable undertones. Francisco also told us he carefully selected where to plant these vines, and the results show in the final product. This varietal seems to take to the Douro climate, especially in the expert hands of a great winemaker.
Usually a tasting would stop here, and we would have been perfectly content to do so. So far my experience had gone from pleasantly surprised to a state of disbelief that I had never heard of Aneto before. But before we get into the final notes, we must first speak about the Aneto Late Harvest wines. Few producers in Portugal go for a Late Harvest, and not all that do have great success with it. However, we were all about to get blown away by not one but two Late Harvest wines:
Late Harvest: Like you’d expect this wine is sweet with a hint of acidity. As we had come to expect from Aneto and Francisco, this wine is also very elegant, while being confident and clearly focused in it’s characteristics. What I personally did not expect was how complex this wine was. When I put the glass down I had made up my mind to take a bottle home, but then we tried the “S”…
Late Harvest S: made exclusively with the Semillon varietal, carefully harvested in December, and aged one year in used oak barrels. This wine is a true delight to all the senses, with a beautiful aroma of honey ripe passion fruit. It’s very well rounded, mingling its sweet fruit and mint undertones with a surprising dryness and mild acidity. This was the Late Harvest we ended up bringing home. There is also a very endearing story behind it: it is a tribute to Francisco’s wife Silvia, and is a limited edition with only 1,800 bottles having been produced. Another reason why we love independent producers!
Just by reading back through my notes, I immediately recognize a common thread: Elegance. Aneto is truly a collection of elegant wines, and the personality of Francisco really comes across in his creations. Much like the winemaker himself, these are refined, understated wines, bursting with flavor but exceedingly well balanced. Aneto really stands out on its own and we already can’t wait to go back next year – or hopefully even sooner – to see what Francisco has in store.
Aneto is a part of the Douro4U group, which also includes one of our long standing favorites Quinta de Tourais, whom we visited again this year. We have been so impressed by both vineyards, we are very excited about visiting the others in the coming years. Each of these independent producers have their own unique style and approach to wine making, proving this past decade has been one bursting with talent and innovation, and we’re sure it’s only just the start of great things to come; it really is such an exciting time for this historical region.
We’d like to thank Francisco and Mario for inviting us to Aneto and for the warm welcome. It’s wineries like this, and people like them that we find truly inspiring, and make us love the Douro and it’s wine even more. We look forward to seeing you again very soon!