“Vinho Verde. Like no other wine in the world”
Well, that’s their tagline and they’re sticking to it. But is is like no other? Castas, in conjunction with the Comissao de Viticultura de Regiao dos Vinhos Verdes, put on an intimate tasting of the regions wines at the Royal Exchange in the City to show us.
I always, always, always forget that vinho verde is not only a wine, it’s also a wine region of Portugal. More specifically, it’s a “specified region” or an appellation, as the French call them. The Vinho Verde region is situated in the northwest of Portugal and was demarcated in 1908. It’s located between the mountain ranges of Freita, Montemuro, Peneda, Gerês, Cabreira and Marão and seperated from Spain by the River Minho, all of which overlook the Atlantic Ocean. That’s a lot of mountain ranges! The area is a lush, green stretch of slopes and plateaus as you would imagine from a place that makes “green wine”. There are 9 sub-regions all of which have their own microclimates, types of wine, varietals and cultivation. They are, in no particular order, Monção, Lima, Cávado, Ave, Sousa, Paiva, Basto, Amarante and Balão.
Vinho Verde is known for producing light, refreshing wines which are meant to be drunk young. Vinho Verde means “green wine” but it’s name comes from the fact that it can be drunk young and is very fresh. It has nothing to do with the colour or the lack of maturity of the grapes when they are picked. I always thought that vinho verde was a white wine only but it actually encompasses all the colours of the wine world. From white to red to rose. The most famous vinho verdes are white but I had a fabulous rosè from the Quintas das Arcas, Arca Nova Rose 2008 that was a spectacular match for piripiri chicken which was being passed around during the tasting, crisp and dry with hints of strawberry, it tamed the spiciness of the chicken. The whites are generally delicate and smooth with fresh green apple fruits on the palate and lovely fruity and floral aromas. They are not complex wines but rather something you would want on a very hot summers’ day in sunny Portugal, something to wipe the sweat off your brow and cool you down.
There are 6 white varietals and 4 reds. The whites are: alvarinho, arinto or pedernal, avesso, azal, loureiro and trajadura. The reds are: alvarelhão, borraçal, espadeiro and vinhão. I sampled a couple of vinhãos – wow! Deep and dense, these were humongous wines. I would never have guessed they were vinho verdes. Loads of spice and fruit, snappy acidity, and enough structure to hang out the wine, totally not what I was expecting. I had a chat with one of the reps from Quinta das Arcas, Antonio Monteiro, and had a taste of their vinhão, it’s all in the video….
So do I believe the tagline? Well after sluggin’ down that vinhão along with the other vinho verdes both white and rose, I’d have to agree. These wines absolutely have something different to offer, fresh, vibrant and best of all, relatively low alcohol, they usually top out at 11% to 12 % alcohol, just the ticket for a sunny afternoon by the river or in the park. Rather then the same old boring tired pinot grigio or chardonnay this summer, take a chance on vinho verde. You won’t be disappointed but watch out for red vinho verde, they will certainly throw you for a loop.
Most retail for around the £7 -£10 but you can always find cheaper (or more expensive). I’ve also found Arca Nova white at Vinoteca restaurant in Farringdon.