MG 2013 from $9.99, £9.99
VV 2012 from €7.25, $12.98, £12.50, AU$25.50, 149.90 Norwegian krone, CA$25.99
Luis Pato is one of the most inventive winemakers anywhere and certainly within Portugal. He's based in Bairrada in northern Portugal but has quarrelled with the law-makers there and so has withdrawn most of his wines from the denomination and sells them as Vinho Regional Beiras rather than as DO Bairrada.
When I tasted a collection of the very varied latest Luis Pato releases recently, I was struck by the great value offered by this basic varietal example of Portugal's most planted white wine grape, known in Bairrada as Maria Gomes and as Fernão Pires in southern Portugal. Time and again locals underestimate grape varieties because they are widely planted. (Remember Shiraz in Australia in the 1980s? Malbec in Argentina in the 1990s?) It isn't highly regarded in Portugal - perhaps also partly because of its productivity and reliability. But to me it seems a perfect candidate for a house white.
Despite the high yields, it generally manages to be attractively aromatic. In some examples the overriding character is citrus, sometimes it is more floral, but in this Luis Pato, Maria Gomes 2013 Beiras I found a refreshing green leafy character and real structure - a beginning, middle and end to the tasting experience. It may well be because this particular wine was made from 35-year-old vines, in this case grown in relatively sandy soils. It's well packaged, with the exception of a rather mean, stubby little cork, which does nothing for Portugal's reputation as the home of the cork industry.
I found this wine infinitely superior to most basic whites. It is really mouth-filling and could be enjoyed either as an aperitif or with quite a wide range of foods. The label says only 12.5% alcohol but it certainly doesn't taste light.
It is particularly widely available in the US. In the UK importer Danny Cameron of Raymond Reynolds assures me that the wine is available at Bottle Apostle, Highbury Vintners, Corks of Cotham, Field and Fawcett and from them at www.winesfromportugal.com. Apparently, although one of these is still listing the 2012 vintage online, they do actually have the 2013 vintage in stock. This is a wine to drink as young as possible, I feel.
The same could not be said of the more serious Luis Pato, Vinhas Velhas Branco 2012 Beiras, for which I suggested a drinking window of 2015-2030 and gave a score of 17/20 (a whole point more than the Maria Gomes). This is a hugely interesting blend of Bical on clay-limestone and Cerceal and Sercialinho on sand. I loved its beeswax and honey flavours, with that green streak again, together with great concentration and balance. This was also relatively low in alcohol but certainly not in impact.
Even this extremely sophisticated, ageworthy white is selling for under $13 a bottle from the likes of Garnet Liquors in the US (ridiculously little) and is currently sold by The Wine Society in the UK at £12.50 although it is also available not only in Portugal but also in Germany, Belgium, Norway, Australia and Canada. Take advantage!
Find Vinhas Velhas Branco 2012