About Vinho Verde
Vinho Verde is unique in the wine world. Confusingly, it refers to both a style of wine and to the area from which it comes. Vinho Verde (pronounced veen-yo vairdh, not veen-oh ver-day) is Portugal’s largest wine region, stretching to the Spanish border in the north and Atlantic Ocean to the west, and is the only one in the world not named after a place.
Literally translating as ‘green wine’, Vinho Verde is usually associated with its cheap and cheerful white wines, full of green-apple crispness and lemony zing, along with a little CO2 to give that characteristic spritz of fizz. True, these wines often have a slight tinge of green to their hue but the name actually refers to the region’s lush landscape.
Unlike Portugal’s sun-drenched wine areas further south, Vinho Verde has a cool, wet climate – so these bright and breezy wines are generally high in acidity and relatively low in alcohol, intended to be drunk young. They are what I often reach for at the first sign of sun. Wine has been made here since Roman times and, until 40 years ago, 80% of production was simple, rustic reds, usually from the native vinhão grape and intended only for the local market.
Now the tables have turned and whites make up 85% of the region’s production, with loureiro, avesso, alvarinho (albariño in Spain) and arinto being the most common grapes. The chilly, damp climate means that vines are susceptible to mildew and other damaging afflictions, so fully organic viticulture (using little or no chemicals in the vineyard) is not widely found. Having said that, many wineries are now adopting more environmentally friendly and sustainable practices. One, Quinta do Ferro, even transports its wines to the UK in sailpowered ships. Portuguese wines so often tick the boxes for quality and value – scratch the surface of Vinho Verde and find some of its finest.
The best Vinho Verde wines to try…
Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2017 (£8.69, waitrosecellar.com)
A more serious style with no carbonation, this has zingy citrus freshness with pretty floral notes that makes it versatile with food. Try it with our baked lemon chicken.
Porta 6 Vinho Verde (£8.99, majestic.co.uk)
This has classic Vinho Verde style with a jolly spritz of CO2 and a modest 9.5% ABV. Buy half a dozen and keep them chilled on standby for when the sun finally shines. Drink as an aperitif or with our fiorelli with prawns, butter and tomatoes.
Quinta da Raza Vinhão 2017 (£9.95, thewinesociety.com)
A crunchy red with lovely brambly flavours and a little spritz. Its cool-climate acidity makes it a perfect partner for rich, fatty dishes such as our duck breast with radicchio, toasted walnuts and fregola.
Quinta do Ferro, Reserva Bruto Espumante 2007 (£20, openfoodnetwork.org)
Complex, toasty fizz made in the same way as champagne and great quality for the price. Dry but with a nutty richness that would be lovely with our pea and orzo risotto.