Wines with Vital grapes
Portuguese winemaking is characterised by a number of grape varieties that are mostly, little known outside this comparatively isolated country from Iberia.
With most grapes being of a purely local consume, Portugal keeps itself content in its homely wine industry.
The Vital grape, like its contemporaries and similar ones, shares only a limited interest in the winemaking industry of Portugal.
Based mostly around the western coast of the Iberian country, the grape goes best as a blending variety since it hasn’t been used as a varietal grape yet, owing to its rather neutral properties.
In fact, it’s very little known even on the internet; most searches about the grape give very vague results and what is being discovered, is that the grape is found nowhere else other than Portugal’s west coast, in very limited quantities.
Perhaps the primary reason of the grape’s cultivation is due to its rich aromas of spices and flowers that it exhibits, with tastes differing according to the time of harvest and fermentation process. And that is pretty much to the Vital’s profile.
Origins of Vital grapes
There are absolutely no traces of Vital’s exact origins and when exactly was it introduced in the Iberian Peninsula.
The grape is grown to its fullest extent in the western coast of Portugal, in the region of Estremadura, which itself encompasses Lisbon.
Since Lisbon itself is the biggest city of Portugal, it serves as the best commercial centre for the grape to be sold.
However, Vital leaves no traces behind. Most grapes of Portugal are of purely indigenous origin, with some of them being brought about by various traders and travellers from the sea, so it could either be that Portugal already knew of this variety and has been here since the middle ages at least, or was at some point of time, made through crossing local white varieties to provide us with Vital.
Its etymology remains mysterious as the grape itself, since no reason has been found out on why it’s named as ‘Vital’.
There are certain other clashes too. Its synonym Malvasia Corado is often confused with the grape’s relation with the Malvasia variety, although no genetic evidences suggest that it is even close to it.
Ampelographers still are at crossroads on why it has Malvasia synonym for it.
Characteristics Vital grape
Vital is most importantly used as a blending grape variety, since its own properties are rather very neutral and unfit to develop varietal wines from it.
It can, however, be a more desirable grape if its acidity gets under control, mostly by being picked early, to retain the phenol contents.
When these vines’ yields are controlled and carefully tended, Vital gives off satisfying mouth feel and gentle aromas to the whole structure. Aromas reminding us of beeswax and hot-sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are its characteristic aromatic traits.
Its taste, however, remains neutral throughout, irrespective of its yields and harvesting period. Some flavours of sweetness have actually been observed by controlled yields, although these remain very limited and unfit for use in varietal purposes.
Primarily because of the grape’s aromatic traits, Vital is most importantly used as a blending variety with several grapes of Portugal.
In the vineyard, the grape is sensitive to several viticulture hazards and pest infections. Odium, rot and mildew are some of its most common viticulture hazards. The grape is also prone to salt related problems, since the region it is grown in is characterised by moist, salt-laden winds that blow from the Atlantic in the west.
Since the grape fares poorly when it comes to such things, and since it is nowhere else grown outside Estremadura, yields of Vital remain erratic and inconsistent.
It is probably the reason why it’s cultivated as a secondary grape, side by side other vineyards, making the grape with not a very promising future for development of varietal wines.
Editor-in-Chief and Wine Writer
Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂