During our travels in Portugal, while visiting an olive oil mill, we came across the president of the winemakers’ association in the area. As we were having a chat with him, around a delicious braised piglet, he mentioned this guy up in Chaves that we absolutely had to visit. He needn’t say anymore, we came back to the van and headed straight up North to meet Amilcar Salgado, the man behind Quinta de Arcosso.
Amilcar has a fantastic understanding of the land of Tras-os-Montes, and his wines speak for themselves... We asked him a few questions, and here it is!
With this vineyard and with our passion for wine, our goal was to transform wine from ancestral peasants' vineyards into wines of excellence, by recovering the millennial tradition of this mountainous region of northern Portugal, near Galicia, which were both part of the Roman region of Galecia.
As for the history behind our Quinta, this place was known by the local population as the best area where they could pick the best grapes in the region, mostly because of the perfect sun exposure and the soils, which allow us to obtain grapes with an intense concentration and flavor.
THE LAND AND THE GRAPES: If people know well the wines of the Douro valley, its Northern neighbour Tras-os-Montes isn’t as famous. However, the microclimate here is fantastic for growing vines and your knowledge and understanding of it is incredible, could you share a bit of it and tell us about your land and grape varietals?
In terms of the microclimate of this region, Trás-os-Montes is not as hot as the central valley of Douro, although it still receives influences from the same valley. However, in this mountainous region, the big thermal amplitudes between the nights and days are the reason behind the slow and intense maturation, that makes our wines fresher and richer in coloring elements and tannins.
Our soils are granitic and we are located within the richest region of mineral waters of Europe. If you could draw a circle centered in Vidago, with a 15km radius, you would be able to find, in this territory, 5 different types of mineral water with the special highlight being the one of Chaves (an old Roman city, formerly known as Aqua Flavia, where the waters sprout at 76ºC of temperature). This demonstrates the mineralogical richness of this region, which will naturally have implications on the typicality of our wines.
Now, for the traditional grape varietals, in reds we find Bastardo (Trousseau in the Jura region of France), Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz (known as Tempranillo in Spain) and Touriga Nacional; and in whites we have Códega, Boal, Gouveio and Arinto.
I think that my main challenge is to convince consumers that there are other regions with a lot of history and tradition in the wine’s production, but since they have never done commercial agriculture, but subsistence agriculture, they did not receive the entrepreneurial capacity they needed so they could be able to sell in big markets.
They are not known, although they have all the conditions to produce wines at the level of others of great name.
THE WINES, TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT: It is always hard for people to order a bottle of wine from a region they don’t know well. Could you help our readers and describe your wines, whether they should eat with them or just sip on them for an aperitive?
Our tradition is to make wines to accompany food. In my opinion, the experience of trying different things must always be present in wine consumers, because when you are drinking a glass of wine, you should be able to feel and taste the place where it came from.
Now, if we have different climates, different soils and different people, naturally the wine will also be different, in fact, the wine serves to know different geographies without visiting them, it should express each place and each typicality, which ours does.