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.