What is Vinho Verde?
Vinho Verde is the name of the wine and also the name of the wine region, which produces white, red and rosé. It is a refreshing white wine with a slight spritz, mineral and citrus drenched, often bone-dry and probably the most cooling drink you can have on a humid summer day. It’s often low in alcohol, and even better, often low in price.
From the northern part of Portugal, where the full brunt of damp and wet Atlantic conditions hit the vineyards, the climate here is damp and mild.
Translated directly from Portuguese, the Verde in Vinho Verde means “green”, which refers to its age rather than the colour. Most are made to be drunk within one year of bottling. Don’t even think of putting it in the wine rack – put it straight in the fridge, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice: the whole point of this wine is to drink it young and beat the humidity.
Rarely seen in the UK, red Vinho Verde sometimes has a slight spritz, too, and is one of the best red wines to keep in the fridge and serve chilled.
What grape is Vinho Verde?
Traditionally, Vinho Verde is a blend of grapes. It can be made from 25 different grape varieties, but the most common ones are Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura.
Alvarinho contributes refreshing acidity; Loureiro gives exotic bay-leaf aromas, while the Trajadura brings the citrus notes to the party.
Spanish wine drinkers may recognise Alvarinho as the white wine Albariño from Rias Baixas. In fact, the Vinho Verde region has more in common with the humid and damp Atlantic conditions in Galicia than what most associate with Portugal.
If you are not a fan of the slight spritz, there are some excellent Alvarinho-only still wines in Vinho Verde, especially near the Spanish border, where the single variety is allowed to take centre stage. The alcohol can be higher at 11.5% to 14% and is more mineral and less peachy than their Spanish cousins.
One of the most famous winemakers in the region, Anselmo Mendes, focuses on single varieties from the region. His single-varietal Alvarinho and Loureiro are more serious than the spritzy stuff but they retain what makes Vinho Verde so perfect for summer: lightness and excellent refreshment. Worth seeking out.
The Green Light for Spritz
The blended Vinho Verde has a light spritz or a tingle on the tongue. This may be seen as a fault in some other wines, but is exactly what makes Vinho Verde so refreshing and easy to drink.
The traditional spritz of bottle-initiated malolactic (which produces the slight effervescence) is a proud tradition. Many producers today give their wines a dose of slight carbonation to continue this tradition, although technically, Vinho Verde is not considered a sparkling or semi-sparkling wine.
Vinho Verde Wine Characteristics
Gooseberry, grapefruit, lemon, pear, melon and lime
Lemonade, chalk (mineral), honeycomb
No oak flavours!
Light with a light spritz
8.5 – 11% alcohol
Ice bucket cold – 8 to 10 ºC
Vinho Verde Food Pairings
The northern part of Portugal is well-known for its fish and shellfish. Whether it is a platter of fresh shellfish or just the simple pleasure of opening a chilled bottle while relaxing at home on the weekend (hopefully) catching a few rays of sun. This is the ultimate summer wine – rain or shine.