Every year, sometime between the moderate temperatures of spring and the humid heat of summer, I begin to develop a crush on the white Vinho Verde wines from the Minho region of Portugal. Their easy-going qualities and low alcohol make them perfect for alleviating the heat on those hazy, lazy afternoons.
Vinho Verde means green wine, named thusly not because the wine is green, but because it is made to be enjoyed while young. It’s possible however, that the lush, fertile countryside where the vines grow is inspiration for the colourful moniker. Minho is in the north of Portugal and is influenced by the cooling Atlantic waters which create a tepid environment conducive to all types of agricultural production. Grapevines abound and have been cultivated since the days of the Phoenicians and Romans.
Winemakers can choose from any of the twenty-five grapes that are allowed in the making of Vinho Verde, but a few indigenous grapes are the usual suspects: Loureiro for its floral profile, Paderna for acidity, Trajadura because of its citrus flavours, and Alvarinho for a little richness. With an innocent fizz, thanks to the addition of carbon dioxide, the wine is always citrusy and refreshing, and can sometimes have a depth of flavour that belies its clear, sparkling appearance.
My favourite is Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde – it has the benefit of a little roundness on the palate and there’s a pleasant floral quality to it. Aveleda Fonte Vinho Verde is also very drinkable with lower alcohol, and an intense lemon/lime flavor.
A refreshing, simple, crisp wine that is versatile at the table: great with seafood, charcuterie, rich or salty snacks, and spicy foods, this ‘green’ wine from Portugal is also great for simply kicking back and enjoying the day.
Vinho Verde is officially in season.
Holly Bruns is an accredited sommelier with degrees from Algonquin College and the Wine Spirits & Education Trust. She lives in Ottawa and is the drinking force behind the successful blog: Wine Out Loud.