So what's Vinho Verde?

When I heard about the Vinho Verde tasting in Toronto, it peaked my curiosity. I've heard about this region and the topic was touched upon in some of my wine classes but I didn't know anything about it really. This tasting would provide an excellent way to travel the region - one wine at a time. Normally when one thinks of Portugal, port wine comes to mind. Portugal also produces still, sparkling and sweet wines. It's up to us consumers to get out there and explore what the country has to offer.

Lush and green
Vinho Verde is located in the hilly northwest portion of Portugal. Known for cool, wet weather and lush green vegetation, Vinho Verde translates to "green wine" although it really means "young wine". Having the largest area under vine in the country, the wines coming from this region are characterized as being fresh, crisp and aromatic with lots of mineral notes. Perfect for light-style foods and activities such as white fish, poultry, salad, sushi and my favourite, summer patio sipping!
Some say the designation "Verde" (green) owes its origin to the wine's acidity and freshness, resembling unripe (green) fruit. Others affirm that "Verde" comes from the region's vegetation, which imparts a green tone to the soil, even in winter. -

A friendly face from Vinho Verde
Antonio Oliveira Monteiro
of Quinta Das Arcas
From a viticultural point of view, cool wet weather will make ripening of grapes more difficult, leading to fruit with much higher acidity.  Suffering from a poor reputation over the years, the region is going through a rebirth. Early exported wines were extremely tart, acidic and fizzy (carbon dioxide left over from fermentation). This led to the the region's unpopularity. With the modernization of both viticultural and vinification practices in the region, wine quality has greatly improved and continues to evolve.  I really enjoyed many of the wines that I had the opportunity to try. You could say that I was pleasantly surprised. Only some of the whites had a bit of that prickle (carbon dioxide) which is now deliberately added during bottling, to give homage to the history of the style. Other whites, especially those made with the Alvarinho grape (same grape as the Spanish Albarino) displayed an elegant, fuller body, some with oak influence. One thing is sure, Vinho Verde is focusing on producing quality-driven wine while showcases its indigenous grape varieties. Even though the region is predominately known for its whites there is also plenty of red being produced as well. We just don't see much of it here.

Delicious wines from
Quinta de Carapecos
Vinho Verde is still distinguished by its high acidity. Flavour depends on the grape varieties used - floral Loureiro, steely Trajadura, mineral Arinto (known here as Pedernã), creamy and mineral Avesso, and the fine, mineral, subtly fragrant Alvarinho. Azal Branco is hard to ripen and declining in popularity, and in any case tends to get blended with more aromatic grapes. Most white Vinho Verde can be relied upon to be light, crisp and aromatic, often with a light prickle of fizz, sometimes with a touch of sweetness. -

Wines of Vinho Verde
 Conde Villar line by
Quinta das Arcas

At the event I had the opportunity to speak with Carla Cunha, a spokesperson for Vinho Verde. I asked her to describe in her own words, the essence of the region and its wines.
"Vinho Verde means a young wine. It's a young style of wine in one way. The other, it comes from a very very green region and that initially gave the name to the wine region and to the wine. The climate has Atlantic influence. The wine is very young and fresh." 

For more information about this exciting region:
Desfrute dos vinhos de Vinho Verde!

Vinho Verde 101 

Vinho Verdo Wines YouTube Channel