Aphros Wine is one of the pioneers of biodynamic farming and winemaking in Portugal. Led by Vasco Croft, the project came to be when the 14 hectares if family vineyards in Vinho Verde were revived. They produce undeniably expressive, fresh wines with their own identity.
Vasco Croft is quite an unusual character in the winemaking scene. Born in Lisbon with an inclination for metaphysics, Vasco is an educator, architect, sculptor, and so much more. He thought of being an astrologer in his teens, before architecture captured his interest. In his twenties, he discovered Steiner's philosophy and went on to study pedagogy and sculpture in England, where he discovered an interest in woodworking and furniture design. On his return to Portugal, he led the Waldorf movement for many years alongside his own furniture design company. In his thirties, he had a life changing encounter with a Buddhist monk and converted to Buddhism.
This encounter changed Vasco's life completely. It led him to start a wine project in Cassal do Paço in 2003, a semi-abandoned property that ahd belonged to his family since the 17th century. He revived the 14 hectares of family vineyards in Vinho Verde, insisting on only using biodynamic, natural and organic practices. Casal do Paço is now recognised as a model ecological winery committed to the preservation of its ecosystems that not only include the vines but entire forests of acacias, oaks, eucalyptus and century-old trees, the home of wild boars, foxes and eagles.
The winery also includes Quinta do Espadanal and Quinta da Casa Nova. Quinta do Espadanal is only a few metres away from Casal do Paço, from which it has been separated by a public road. Quinta da Casa Nova is located in the neighbouring parish of Refoios, near Ponte de Lima. It is a beautiful southfacing and gently sloping property, with around 7Ha of vines in only 2 plots, having a group of granite houses at its centre, around a central patio covered by vines.
Biodynamics is a method of farming based on a holistic way of understanding the relationships within nature. The sphere of life on Earth in its mineral, plant and animal diversity, in seen as a whole and connected to the larger context of the rhythms and forces present in the cosmos.
As a general principle it is emphasised that each farm should be understood as a self-sustained system, to be created out of its own bio-diversity, in a harmony between soil, plants, animals and human activity.
It is a method of farming that has much in common with other organic approaches, such as emphasising the use of manures and composts and excluding the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants.
Most of Aphros Wines' practices are in fact the same as in organic, such as the use of cover crops with “companion” plants to manage the soils of the vineyards. Some of these plants are sown for specific purposes, such as water retention, soil structuring, aeration or Nitrogen fixation. At the same time they help to keep the soil alive, and allow for colonies of microorganisms to develop around their roots, which will in turn perform mineral exchanges with the vine roots.
In the cellar, Aphros Wine follows the same philosophy as in the vines, excluding chemical treatments, relying on natural processes, and making a minimal use of soft mechanic operations. Maceration and fermentation for the reds is always made with foot treading in ancient granite tanks (lagares). Only indigenous yeasts are used, and cellar operations (harvesting, racking, bottling) follow the astronomic calendar as far as possible.
Filtration and collage operations are avoided. Some wines are unfiltered while others go through a soft filtration just before bottling. Use of SO2 is unavoidable since we ship wines to very long distances. However we have been progressively reducing their use to very low levels. Our present protocol is to use max 25ppm free SO2 at bottling, and between 0 and 50 ppm total SO2 per litre, depending on the characteristics of wine.