Portuguese vinho verde wine: everything you need to know
olive's wine expert Kate Hawkings turns to the Vinho Verde region for supreme quality and value
About vinho verde
Vinho verde is unique in the wine world. Confusingly, it refers to both a style of wine and to the area from which it comes. Vinho Verde (pronounced veen-yo vairdh, not veen-oh ver-day) is Portugal’s largest wine region, stretching to the Spanish border in the north and Atlantic Ocean to the west, and is the only one in the world not named after a place.
Literally translating as ‘green wine’, vinho verde is usually associated with its cheap and cheerful white wines, full of green-apple crispness and lemony zing, along with a little CO2 to give that characteristic spritz of fizz. True, these wines often have a slight tinge of green to their hue but the name actually refers to the region’s lush landscape.
Unlike Portugal’s sun-drenched wine areas further south, Vinho Verde has a cool, wet climate – so these bright and breezy wines are generally high in acidity and relatively low in alcohol, intended to be drunk young. They are what I often reach for at the first sign of sun. Wine has been made here since Roman times and, until 40 years ago, 80% of production was simple, rustic reds, usually from the native vinhão grape and intended only for the local market.
Now the tables have turned and whites make up 85% of the region’s production, with loureiro, avesso, alvarinho (albariño in Spain) and arinto being the most common grapes. The chilly, damp climate means that vines are susceptible to mildew and other damaging afflictions, so fully organic viticulture (using little or no chemicals in the vineyard) is not widely found. Having said that, many wineries are now adopting more environmentally friendly and sustainable practices. One, Quinta do Ferro, even transports its wines to the UK in sailpowered ships. Portuguese wines so often tick the boxes for quality and value – scratch the surface of Vinho Verde and find some of its finest.
The best vinho verde wines to try…
LB7 Vinho Verde, £8.99, Majestic
Classic, spritzy vinho verde, naturally low in alcohol at just 10% and with a sherbet-like, citric freshness that makes it really thirst-quenching. Serve well chilled as a sunny aperitif or with simple seafood dishes.
Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde, £8.99, Waitrose
A more serious style of VV, with no carbonation and more body and roundness than with the classic wines. Green-apple crispness with hints of mangoes, jasmine and lime zest, it really suits summery salads and grilled fish.
M&S Found Vinho Verde Rosé, £7, M&S
Vinho verde is usually made from white grapes but here espadeiro and touriga nacional, both red grapes, are used to make this very jolly rosé with a gentle spritz. Strawberries-and-cream fruitiness with a hint of pear drops, it’s great with a paella or a fish soup.
Quinta do Ferro Espumante Tinto 2013, £19.95, Xisto Wines
Vinho verde, but not as you know it. A really unusual sparkling red made from the local vinhão grape, it’s full of dark, brambly fruit with crunchy tannins and a snappy dry finish. Extra marks for sustainability as it comes to the UK on a sailing ship. Drink it with charcuterie or anything rich and meaty.
QL Flowers Vinho Verde, £8.85, The Great Wine Co
Floral and aromatic with zesty notes of grapefruit, pineapple and astringent herbs. Crisp and refreshing, with a gentle 10.5% abv, and with such a pretty label, too.
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