Antão Vaz Grape Variety & Wine Profile
Antão Vaz is a popular white grape in the hot region of Alentejo in Portugal because it is highly resistant to drought and disease. This is a grape that was made for hot and dry regions, and therefore has become the star of Alentejo, specifically in the areas of Vidigueira and Évora. The grape is a genetic cross between a white and a red Portuguese grape, Cayetana blanca and João Domingos, respectively, the latter of those being extinct in Portugal.
In the vineyard, Antão Vaz is a thick-skinned grape that forms big, loosely packed bunches. It needs dry, deep soil. It is a relatively easy grape for growers and produces consistently reliable yields that ripen evenly. Most often, Antão Vaz is picked in mid-August to preserve its acidity. If it is picked later in the season, it will produce a wine with much higher alcohol content.
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The Tasting Notes of Antão Vaz
Antão Vaz is a versatile grape that can make wines of various styles depending on the specific microclimates, the conditions of the growing season, or when the winemaker decides to conduct harvest of the vineyard. If picked earlier in the season, it can produce vibrant wines with exotic aromas and a firm palate with balanced acidity. However, if left on the vine until later in the season, the wines will be higher in alcohol with more perfumed aromas and a fuller body. More ripened Antão Vaz grapes are better suited for barrel aging. Varietal wines are light yellow and can be light to medium-bodied and lower in acidity with aromas and flavors of tropical fruits, tangerine-peel, and citrus, with nuttier notes in those wines that have been aged. Antão Vaz is usually blended with other native Portuguese grapes such as Arinto and Roupeiro that add more acidity to the wine. Though most Antão Vaz wines are made to be consumed young, some wines can be aged and develop tertiary qualities. This grape is also permitted and often used in the production of white Port.
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When it comes to food pairings, think in terms of lighter fare, such as fish, chicken, and vegetables. Antão Vaz varietal wines will be lower in acidity, but blends with grapes such as Arinto can have much higher, firmed acidity and structure, which can make them excellent food-pairing wines. Grilled tuna steaks and Portuguese Bacalhau are always good options for native white grape wines. Additionally, vegetables such as squash or sunchokes, and even fresh summer salads and Asian dishes are possible accompaniments to Antão Vaz wines.
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Written By Jacqueline Coleman
Jacqueline Coleman is a professional wine + travel writer, wine judge, columnist, and consultant based in Miami, FL.