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Vinho Verde: Refreshing Wines of Summer


Vinho Verde: Refreshing wines of Summer Vinho Verde (DOC) is the name of both a Portuguese style of wine and the region that produces it, which is perfect for this time of year. Most of the production (85%) is white, but red and rose' are also made.


Vinho Verde just south of Spain's Albarino region of Rias Baixus, with the Minho River as the border between the two countries. The Lima River runs through the middle of the district, and the Douro River demarks the southern boundary of the region. All three rivers run west to the Atlantic from the mountains that separate Spain and Portugal. The Vinho Verde DOC was established in 1908, from what was formerly known as the Minho Province in the northernmost part of Portugal. There are nine Vinho Verde sub zones, which generally run in bands of land, that are stacked from the north at the Minho river, to south, toward the Lima River. Minho Vinho Regional or VR might be on a label if a wine is not produced in the demarked zones, but will be of the same style.


The "green" nomenclature is probably because the wine is drunk young, often with a little spritz due to some finishing malo-lactic fermentation after bottling. If malo is allowed to go to completion before bottling, the addition of some CO2 before closure establishes the low level of carbonation to maintain the style. The wines are typically fresh and bright, aromatic with peach and citrus.


Some say the area is called "green" because of abundant rainfall, an average of 150 cm. per year, which results in a very lush landscape. The topsoil is thin and sandy, but the base is granitic and no shale. The Douro, to the east where Port is produced is the opposite. While older plantings are often grown on pergolas, or even left to grow up trees and poles on the edges of fields of other crops, newer plantings are more typically done in rows using guide wires for support.


Historically, Portugal's wines are usually blends, but partly due to the international trend of stating the grape varieties on the label or making pure varietals, this is changing. White Vinho Verde are usually a blend of any combination of Loureiro, Trajadura, and Pederna, The first two grape varieties are shared with Galician Spain. Paderna (aka Arinto) and any other indigenous varieties like Avesso and Azal can also be included, though the label may not tell you this information or the blend. Pure Loureiro is getting more common, which will be stated on the label.


The most common white blend, which is great for summertime drinking, is low in alcohol (limited to 11.5%), aromatic on the nose, with bright acidity will contain the following:

60% Loureiro: adds aromatics of Peach/ Apricot/citrus

20% Pederna (aka Arinto) : mineral/acidic with lemon-lime or green apple, which adds acidity to the wine

20% Trajadura: is crisp and lemony, has high yields and much sugar; it creates a bridge between Loureiro and Paderna


Also made are 100% Alvarinho wines, which are labeled as such, because these are valued as a premium grapes, and usually come from Moncao, the most northern part of Vinho Verde, bordering Spain. These wines are not limited to the 11.5% ABV that all other Vinhos must stay below.

Alvarinho: Peach/Apricot or acidic and bracing like green apple and lemon peel; lychee, lemon balm


Reds are usually a blend of Vinhao and Borracal (can also have Amaral), or may be single varietals: 70% Vinhao: notes of raspberry/ pomegranate 30% Borracal: has lots of acid and deep color Rose' is made mostly from Touriga Nacional (Portugal's signature red grape) and Espadeiro in any combination.


With over 25,000 growers, 600 bottlers and 2,000 brands, there is a lot to choose from. The white and rose' appeal to me most, though the reds have a fresh appeal that some may adore. Try a few and develop your own opinions.

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