As Summer gets underway, when it comes to wine, many people start searching for crisp and refreshing options. Portugal has one of the best in the World: Vinho Verde. The name is usually translated to “Green Wine”. But do you know that, actually, there is no wine that has the color green? If you are puzzled, come with us, while we tell you all about Green Wine.
The best way to start your journey on the Green Wine path is to taste some of its best examples. At Lisbon Winery, our Portuguese Wine Tasting includes Vinho Verde from small and often unique producers, carefully curated by our sommeliers and paired with some of the best Portuguese artisanal cheeses and charcuterie. And now, it’s time to start exploring Green Wine.
A question of name
So, first things first. Is there or isn’t there a wine that is green? To answer that, you have to go to the area where it is produced. Portugal is divided in 14 wine regions. One of them is the “Região dos Vinhos Verdes“, or “Green Wines Region”. Established in 1908, it is the biggest in the country and one of the biggest in Europe.
All of this wine region is located in the province of Minho, on the northwest and facing the Atlantic. And Minho is the area in Continental Portugal where it rains the most. Therefore, the landscape is almost like a sea of green, and you can get lost in the lush vineyards. Besides that, here the harvest is done a little bit earlier than average. That means that the grapes are just a little bit unriped. And thats good! It means more freshness and crispiness.
So, when it was time to name the area, the chosen name was “Região dos Vinhos Verdes”, or “Green Wines Region”. No because of the color of the wine itself – we have whites, reds and roses, even sparkling, but no greens – but because of the climate, the humidity, the landscape and the early timings of production. Now, let’s do a little exercise. What is easier: talking about a “white wine from the Green Wines Region” or, simply, a “white Green Wine”? And that’s the name that stuck and that we use.
Drink the freshness
As we said earlier, this family of wines has whites, roses, reds and sparkling. However, the large amount of production and consumption is of the first variety. That makes the whites absolute stars in the Vinho Verde world. There are some reasons for that.
First, these wines are known for their freshness, often with a semi-sparkling personality – called by “agulha”, or “needle” – and some acidity. Bear in mind that the best options are not produced with artificial carbonation. The “needle” is a result of a natural process of fermentation.
On the reds, the acidity and the “agulha” can create a wine which is not the easiest to enjoy: the astringency can be high and combined with its full body and a red rue can make it a little overwhelming. Let us say that that is a question of love or hate. The whites are the opposite: fresh, crisp, with floral and/or fruity notes, and balanced acidity, they are easy to drink. Some say, too easy to drink! So, in the balance, the whites are loved, more produced and people drink them more.
Wherever and whenever you are in Portugal, there is always a bottle of Green Wine nearby. But, it is in the Summer that the amount of consumption explodes. There is no better drink to have on a hot afternoon, with some cheese, salad, fish, seafood or a fruity dessert. Or on its own by the pool or the seaside!
Floral or fruity? Both!
There is no other wine region in Portugal quite like the Vinho Verde. Even the way the vineyards are planted can be different. The traditional way is to use trellises, or even trees, to support the vines, that are called “latadas”. So, when its is time for you to harvest the grapes, ladders are required. Historically, this technique, and the landscape that creates, were called “vinha de enforcado”, or “hagman’s vines”.
Are you a floral or fruity wine afficionado? Good, there is a Green Wine that you will surely enjoy. Let’s us guide you through the world of the main varieties. Of course there are dozens that the producers can and will use. However, in the case of the whites, there are two varieies that are in the center of things: Alvarinho and Loureiro.
Alvarinho presents a color that is close to straw. Experts define this variety as dry and full-bodied, with balanced acidity and a mix of floral and fruity bouquet. These wines offer a combination of aromas, like apples, peach an citrus fruits. Loureiro offers a citrus hue and a crisp acidity, combined with aromas of orange, lime, grapefruit and apple.
If you are willing to try the reds, Vinhão, Borraçal, Espadeiro and Rabo de Ovelha are the varieties you should look for. And the roses? Espadeiro and Padeiro give them notes of raspberries and strawberries, from the palest to the brightest pink.
So, Summer is here and you now know how amazing Vinho Verde can be. When in Portugal, we would love to show you some of the best monovarietal ou blends, ranging from the sparkling, whites, roses, reds and even brandies. Just reach out Lisbon Winery. Soon enough you will join the Green Wine fan club!