Wine Region Profile: Portugal’s Vinho Verde

Confusion sometimes arises about Vinho Verde. It’s a grape! It’s a style of wine! It’s always a white wine! It must be drunk young! It’s always fizzy! It’s green!

What is Vinho Verde?

Vinho Verde is actually a wine appellation in the verdant north of Portugal, along the Spanish frontier and the Atlantic Ocean. The wine can be red, rose, or white, although the reds and roses from this area are hardly ever exported. Vinho Verde has nine sub-regions, though most share ocean influence and granitic soils, and position in the Douro Valley with its Douro and Minho rivers account for distinctive micro-climates.

White Vinho Verde usually doesn’t undergo malolactic conversion, so the tart malic acid never gets converted to the softer lactic acid during winemaking. In addition, many such wines were bottled young, even before the yeast had fermented all the sugars, resulting in a natural Pet-Nat-type fizz in the wine as it naturally continued fermentation in the bottle. This is not always the case these day, however, and Portuguese wineries now make white wines labelled Vinho Verde meant for longer ageing.

These wines have more balanced acidity and feature a minerality that adds complexity and a longer finish. Vinho Verde in Burgundy-shaped bottles generally indicates this more high-end style. If you want lightly sparkling Vinho Verde, look for the tall bottle more typical to German Rieslings.

The majority of Vinho Verde is a blend of indigenous white grapes, but single-varietal wines made from Alvarinho and Loureiro are becoming popular. Alvarinho is the same grape as Spanish Alabarino, which is almost Chardonnay-like in its adaptability according to the winemaker’s style. Loureiro is rich on the palate, though still tart, with floral notes. In addition to the trends towards single-varietal and more complex wines, organic production is also increasing. There is nothing better than Vinho Verde for pairing with seafood dishes, though is you want a refreshing, crisp wine for solo drinking they are great too.

Sound like something delicious to try by ordering this white wine online?

Sample the 2020 Niepoort Docil Vinho Verde, made from 100% Loureiro grown in granitic soils. It has the signature crisp citrus flavors, including a hint of mandarin orange, with mineral-laced acidity, good structure, and aromas of white flowers. It would be hard to find a wine of comparable quality for just $13.99. The 2020 Quinta do Ameal Vinho Verde Loureiro is made from organically-cultivated grapes, but it’s just $1.00 more than the Docil! The vineyards’ proximity to the ocean lend a subtle salinity to the wine, which also has the typical refreshing acidity, citrus notes, minerality from the granite soils. Try it with sea bass, steamed mussels, or grilled octopus!

Written By: - Charlie Leary


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