Vinho Verde it’s definitely a trend now here in the UK but unlike food on chopping boards and cheese on slates, Vinho Verde is here to stay!
Despite its popularity, I still hear people state that Vinho Verde is a grape or a blend, I’ve even heard people say it’s a brand, well… let me disappoint you and tell you it’s not any of those! Vinho Verde is a DOC in Portugal which means it’s a region; precisely on the most northern edge of the country and it goes from the border with Spain in the north to the western Atlantic coast in Porto. Yes, where Port wine is made.
Now, Vinho Verde literally translates to green wine, some say this is because of the ever-green landscape of the region, others say this is because it’s early harvest as one should drink it while the wine is still green. I don’t know, choose whichever story appeals the most to you. What it’s true, is that Vinho Verde can be the most people oriented and traditional wine in the country and possibly in that side of the world. Families grew vines in their gardens and for generations, they produced home-made wine from their grapes. In 2000 it all changed with the EU investing in the region and regulating its production which triggered that boom.
The wines from this region have been traditionally produced with a blend of autochthonous grapes like Loureiro which is typically floral in aromas and flavours, Trajadura which is dry and cold like the steel, Alvarinho giving an elegant, fragrant touch, Avesso which can be very mineral, like licking a rock and Arinto which is a bit milder on the minerals but very fragrant. All these are white grapes of course; however, there is a small production of rose wine made with a blend of Touriga Nacional (Portugal’s national grape) and a red wine that mostly locals drink every day as ‘table-wine’ called Vinhao, named after the grape used. I’ve tried Vinhao a few times and it’s a rustic, punchy dark red wine. Beautiful! But not for everyone.
Like I said, most Vinho Verdes are produced blending different grape varieties and the dominant percentage gives each wine its style; from bone dry and acidic to creamy and mineral, or floral and vibrant. This has changed in the last 10 years or so. I remember by 2008 or 9, when I was still a somm, seeing an increase in popularity on single-variety wines; these are now being the “top of the pops of their wines” and appeal to a wealthier, more demanding crowd. Don’t forget that most Vinho Verde is incredibly affordable like most wines in the continent.
The fizz, yes, I nearly forgot about the fizz. Most white Vinho Verdes have a really pleasant fizz… or something like that as my British peers say. Originally, this fizz was part of the fermenting process and it was naturally produced after bottling. You know… residual yeasts eat residual sugars and the energy of this is transformed into gas and blah blah….But nowadays, producers inject it into the wine because they know the English love a bit of
ji..Fizz; and the Americans too. For some reason, outside Portugal, Vinho Verde was always thought of a gently fizzy wine. Thankfully, not all of them have this fizz. If you truly want to appreciate the wine’s qualities, try a still Vinho Verde.
Ask your somm or wine shopman or woman for a still Vinho Verde or even better, if you live in Brighton, pop into Fourth and Church who kindly gave us two spots at their latest Vinho Verde tasting.
They stock a fantastic variety of styles and their food offering is perfect for a Vinho Verde, trust me!
The wines we tried:
- Quinta da Raza, Vinho Verde. A “typical” slightly fizzy, fresh, short, sharp and delicate white wine. Very easy to drink, perfect for a sunny evening with some olives or boquerones. This one was beautiful with Fourth & Church Goats Cheese Canape.
- Quinta da Raza, Arinto. A very fine example of a single variety wine. Very floral and fragrant with much more structure than the previous one. It’s mildly acidic, definitely a fish and seafood wine.
- Quinta de Soalheiro, Alvarinho. Another single variety wine but from a different producer form the most northern end of Vinho Verde. This one is fresh, smooth, velvety and very exotic. It has quite pleasant notes of tropical fruit and is much more complex. Perfect for spicy dishes and grilled whte meats.
- Quinta de Soalheiro, Alvarinho Terramatter. An unfiltered white wine which the producer recommends to give it a shake before opening and pouring. This one is like biting into the juiciest, ripest green apple you’ve ever tried. It’s so fresh and raw!
- Quinta da Raza Vinhao. This is a perfect example of what I was talking about their red wines. Look how dark and rich it is. This is a wine to drink with friends over a barbecue. Serve it chilled, in white ceramic glasses like they do in Portugal. At 12.5% it’s gonna go very easy.
- Quinta da Solheiro Oppaco, Vinhao and Alvarinho. This is an elegant red wine made to impress. It’s bigger and bolder in body but much more gentle in intensity and flavours. If you noticed, this is a blend of red and white grapes. Expect something exceptional out of this.