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To many wine shoppers, Portugal is mostly known for value whites and reds...and Port of course. Vinho Verde, for example, is a region that is synonymous with inexpensive, low alcohol thirst quenching white wines of the same name. Many people don't realise that there are red wines from Vinho Verde, let alone skin contact amphora aged whites and medieval-style field blends! Enter Aphros winery...

Starting in 2003, Vasco Croft set out to revive his family's semi-abandoned property in Casal do Paço, in the Vinho Verde region. The estate has been in the Croft family since the 17th century and covers a total of 20 hectares, including four hectares of vines and another four of chestnut orchards. A firm believer in Biodynamics (Vasco led the Waldorf movement in Portugal in his previous life as an architect), Croft immediately began converting the estate after he arrived, and the ecosystem is now thriving, with wild horses, sheep, and bees (the vineyard manager, Alberto Araújo, tends to the beehives). There have been small additions of parcels over the years, as production has slowly increased, and all the vineyards are farmed Biodynamically. 

A truly fascinating aspect of the winery has been their research of medieval winemaking styles, and Vasco's drive to rely less on technology, which has led them to pursue the idea of making wine without the use of electricity. Their Phaunus wines (the focus of this email) are all made in this fashion. Grapes are harvested by hand, and crushed by foot. A manual vertical press is used and they were able to track down some old Talha amphorae from the south of Portugal for ageing. The amphorae are lined with beeswax, and a small amount of olive oil is used as a cap to prevent any voile from forming. There is no temperature control during fermenation or aging, and wines are bottled by hand. As head winemaker Miguel Viseu says,"This is how wine was made 1,000 years ago!"

Aphros Loureiro ‘Phaunus’ Pet Nat 2016
The Phaunus Pet Nat is all Loureiro, vinified in stainless steel with no added yeast or sugar. There is a short period of maceration, and disgorgement is after 5 months of ageing, with no filtration or fining. Super dry, refreshing and textured.

Aphros Loureiro ‘Phaunus’ Amphora 2016
The Phaunus "orange" is all Loureiro, with 8 weeks of skin contact and lees ageing in 1,300L clay Talha amphorae from southern Portugal. The wine has nice lift from the natural acidity of the Loureiro grapes, while the maceration and lees ageing give it texture and structure. As winemaker Miguel Viseu says, it's a wine 'made in silence,' with harvest by hand in the early morning, and no electricity used at any point in the process. A truly curious approach with a delicious result. Drink chilled, but not too cold.

Aphros Loureiro 2019
Aged four months on the lies, this is a really concentrated Loureiro, sleek and muscular with ripe, juicy citrus fruit, shimmering minerals, powder puff and floral hints.  Very long and limpid, with a trace of elderflower cordial sweetness to the finish, which becomes more pronounced over the three days.  It’s more about the richness of the fruit, for this is a deftly balanced, dry wine; just not bone dry like the Daphne.

17 points, Jancis Robinson MW - “From the Lima subregion, home to this variety. Fermented in tank. Two months on lees. Bottled mid March 2020. Certified organic and biodynamic. Delightfully scented but not OTT: citrus, spring blossom, lightly herbal – the bayleaf referenced in the variety name (Loureiro means 'laurel') becomes more obvious as the wine warms in the glass. And even so a stony note that makes it more than just a pretty aroma. On the palate, again, beautifully scented and intense without overpowering you with perfume, and there's piercing lemon and lime fruit purity. High acidity but in balance to give a long and mouth-watering finish, with a very slight creaminess in the texture to counterbalance the crisp flavours in the mouth. One of the most piercing and elegant varietal Loureiro wines I can remember.”