Portuguese wine is not mentioned quite as much as other old world wine nations. France, Italy and Spain are some examples of the countries that first come to mind. However, that is not to say that Portugal doesn’t have a number of great wines to choose from. Vinho Verde is one of the prime examples of great Portuguese wine.
Vinho Verde is known for their distinctive, yet subtle, fizz. However, they are not classified as sparkling wines. Originally, the slight carbonation expressed by Vinho Verde was accidentally introduced from vintners hastily bottling wine. This meant that the fermentation process finished in the bottle, (as is the case with Champagne and Cremant). This quickly became a desirable quality of Vinho Verde and is still part of what makes Vinho Verde wine so unique.
It must be noted that not all Vinho Verde wines are slightly effervescent. However, even the non-fizzy versions possess a great balance of acidity and minerality, which you’d expect to see in a sparkling wine. Vinho Verde wines are delicious, very reasonably priced and the perfect choice for a hot Summer’s day. Now, let’s dig into the region and the wines produced in greater detail.
The Vinho Verde Wine Region
Vinho Verde when translated from Portuguese quite literally means ‘green wine’. This is applicable both to the wine itself and the Vinho Verde region as a whole. This name stems from the fact that the wines from this region are so fresh and light. Beyond the wine itself, the whole region is lush and you guessed it, green.
The terroir in this region is rich and diverse with long stretches of both the Atlantic coastline and the banks of the Minho river, down to the Douro river. The climate is also mild, when compared to similar places in Europe. There is also an abundance of rainfall which allows for very fertile soil. All of these factors mean that the Vinho Verde wine region is an excellent producer of white wine. Vinho Verde wines aren’t exclusively white though, (although 82% of the region’s production is white).
As we’ve said, the region is rich and diverse. This is clear, as there are nine subregions, which make up the Vinho Verde region. These subregions all developed organically within the Vinho Verde wine region. Various microclimates and localised issues have led to numerous ways of producing and cultivating wine in the Vinho Verde wine region most effectively.
A number of the vintners in this region have also opted for low-intervention, biodynamic and organic methods to wine production. The forgiving climate allows Portuguese wine makers to trust that the vines are going to get where they need to be and be naturally strong enough to fight off disease, pests and frosts. The end result being a product more natural for the consumer.
What Is Vinho Verde Wine?
Now, we can look at the wine that comes from this region. Broadly speaking, any wine which comes from the Vinho Verde wine region, is a Vinho Verde wine. However, the main three grape varieties which are used in Vinho Verde wine, (which we look at in greater detail later), are; Loureiro, Alvarinho and Arinto.
Since Vinho Verde encompasses a number of different grapes across a number of different terroirs, there is a degree to which wine varies. However, they aren’t as varied as other wine regions in Portugal. Red and rose account for around 17% of Vinho Verde wines. It is without a doubt most notable for its white wine.
Generally, Vinho Verde wines are slightly tart, light and hay-yellow coloured wines. This is not to say all Vinho Verde wines are one and the same. Effervescence can vary greatly, depending on the vintner. Not only this, but different grapes in the region offer differing tastes of minerality, acidity and citrus and stone fruit flavours.
Another quality of Vinho Verde is that they are comparatively low-alcohol wines. They are usually between 8% & 11.5% ABV. Alongside, being low-alcohol and very easy to drink. Vinho Verde is also famously good value for money.
To summarise, Vinho Verde wines are crispy, easy to drink and exceptionally affordable. They are the perfect lunchtime wine as they are light and low in alcohol so you can have more than one glass and not fall asleep. Sign me up!
Vinho Verde Wine Region’s Biggest Grapes
We now know what to expect from both the Vinho Verde region and the Vinho Verde wine within. Let’s look in greater depth at some of the key grape varieties in the region so you know which ones are the right variety for you.
The Alvarinho, (sometimes referred to as Albarino), is the most widely produced single blend wine, in the Vinho Verde wine region. This grape, which is native to Galicia in Spain, has found a new home just over the border in Portugal.
This is one of the classically fizzy varieties of Vinho Verde wines as well. Alvarinho is a particularly acidic grape, with certain varieties even possessing a degree of salinity. This quality comes from the grapes’ close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.
Now onto Loureiro, the second-most produced grape in the Vinho Verde region. In somewhat of a reversal on the Alvarinho, Loureiro is native and almost exclusive to the Vinho Verde region, with small batches being grown across the border in Galicia.
The Loureiro name comes from ‘laurel’. This is due to the distinctive aroma given off. Loureiro grapes produce orange and herbal notes on the nose. A refreshing acidity is also found in these low-alcohol content wines.
Finally, we will look at one of the more widely produced blends in Vinho Verde wine. Arinto-Loureiro. We’ve looked at Loureiro. Arinto is the other half of this blend. It originated from the Southern portion of Portugal, before heading North and finding successes in Vinho Verde. Arinto, like Loureiro, is naturally acidic. This means that this blend is particularly crisp, light and refreshing to drink.
Vinho Verde Food Pairings
We’ve gone through what you can expect from Vinho Verde wine. It’s a crisp, refreshing and low-alcohol content wine. This wine is one for Summer. So, while you’re enjoying the sun and the Vinho Verde wine, here are some suggestions of food to enjoy with it.
Fish is certainly the way to go here. Grilled fish more specifically, of which Portuguese cuisine is famous for. An overview of this is available here. More specifically than that, the North-Western Atlantic coast and part of the Vinho Verde region, is the place to go for grilled fish.
We recommend pairing Vinho Verde with sea bream. Although any white fish will likely do the job. Keep things simple. Season the whole sea bream with sliced lemon and sprigs of parsley and then wrap lightly in foil before cooking in the oven or BBQ. If you are cooking the fish on the BBQ make sure you pull the hood down or put the lid on. A bream which is roughly 30-40cm long should take no more than 25 minutes to cook once the oven is 180 degrees or BBQ coals hot. Whilst you are waiting for the fish to cook make a fresh garden salad and balsamic dressing. Now all you need is some sun and a cold bottle of Vinho Verde wine and you are good to go. Things don’t get better than that.
Alternatively you can deep-fry their fish as well which is a popular dish in Portugal. ‘Pastéis de Bacalhau’ is a deep-fried Salt Cod croquette. This is a sure fire winning combination with a nice glass of Vinho Verde.
Vinho Verde wines are fizzy, (but not sparkling). This distinctive group of Portuguese wines are also crisp, dry, very refreshing and easy-drinking. When you compare all this with an incredibly reasonable price point, Vinho Verde wine is not to be missed! Pick up a bottle, (or six), get yourself in the sun and enjoy.
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