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Portugal is famous for its beautiful ceramic tiles. In Barcelos, the street-fronts of houses are embellished with them.
The Minho region of northwest Portugal where Vinho Verde is produced, has centuries of history baked into charming market towns like Barcelos where the street-sides of buildings are tiled with trademark Portuguese ceramics. side of buildings are tiled with trademark Portuguese ceramics. Besides serving as home to a market that’s been operating since the 13th century, the town is also home to Portugal’s national symbol, the black rooster. According to legend, a pilgrim on the road to St. Iago da Campostela was convicted by a bishop of stealing silver. The man protested his innocence and declared that the roast bird on the bishop’s table would crow when he was hanged. It did. Legend established.
The Minho offers more contemporary pleasures. I stayed at the stunning Aquafalls Spa Hotel Rural. The restaurant, spa and reception area and the cabin-like suites are set on a hilltop with panoramic views of the Cavado River and the surrounding forested hills. The restau was superb. If you think it sounds a little rich for your blood, keep in mind that all this can be yours for under $200 a night!
Last but not least, there’s Oporto. It’s the largest city in Northern Portugal and the hub of the Port production industry. It boasts a number of excellent restaurants, as well as the shopping and cultural opportunities you’d expect of any large city.
Vinhos Verdes vinified from Alvarinho grape (known as Albarino north of the Minho River in the Spanish region of Galicia) offer the most complexity and depth. The best examples are from the temperate northerly subzones Moncao (softer more delicate wines) and Melgaco (less fruitiness). Further south around the town of Ponte da Lima, Vinho Verde is based on Loureiro, or blended with other varietals like Trajadura and Azal. These specimens, while still gluggable and refreshing, tend toward higher acidity and heft.
Many producers are exporting top-quality Vinho Verde and the volume on offer has been growing steadily for a number of years. You shouldn’t have trouble finding some nice examples. (Your interest will doubtless grow when things thaw out in your neighbourhood and you can actually imagine summer coming.) My favourite house is Soalheiro, whose wines are intense, complex, exotic, delicious and capable of aging. Anselmo Mendes is regarded as another of Melgaco’s finest producers. Quinta da Lixa bottles a wide range of Vinho Verde covering the stylistic spectrum. Other labels available in Canada include Quinta da Raza, António Lopes Ribeiro Wines, Soc. Agr”Icola Casa de Vilacetinho, Quinta de Covela, Quinta de Carapecos, Quinta de Gomariz, Pac[,]o da Palmeira, Quinta do Cruzeiro.
The Minho region in northwest Portugal is a verdant land whose moderate climate keeps the grapes grown there fresh and fruity.
Vinho Verde is Portuguese for “green wine.” The wine itself isn’t green—it comes in white, red and pink. The “green” refers to the verdant landscape of Minho, the fertile region where the wine is produced.
White Vinho Verde is the best known and most commercially successful version. It’s typically lightish, fresh and slightly spritzy. With brisk to crisp acidity, it makes a refreshing aperitif and enables it to liven up fish and seafood like a squeeze of lemon. The abundant fruit melds green apple, lemon and passion fruit aromas and flavours. Sweet spicy floral notes (acacia flower and carnation) and pungent minerals keep things interesting. If all that isn’t enough to pique your interest, consider that prices for Vinho Verde start under $10 and top out around $15—a very friendly neighbourhood for most wine consumers.
Vinhos Verdes vinified from Alvarinho grape (known as Albarino across the Minho River in the Spanish region of Galicia) offer the most complexity and depth. The best are from the temperate northerly subzones Moncao and Melgaco. Further south around the town of Ponte da Lima, Vinho Verde is based on Loureiro, on its own or blended with other varietals like Trajadura and Azal. These specimens, while still gluggable and refreshing, tend toward higher acidity and heft.
I’d happily drink most of the white Vinhos Verdes I tasted on my tour of the Minho in the first week of March. In subsequent posts I’ll tell you more about particular wineries in the region. Stay tuned.