Discovering Portugal’s Vinho Verde, visiting Soalheiro vineyards
The last days of summer are upon us but that doesn’t mean you have to automatically switch to red wine. As they say, it’s ok to drink white after Labor Day (well, that’s what they say in the States). Earlier this summer I visited the Vinho Verde region in the north east of Portugal where they make great wines, and not just for summer.
Vinho Verde can be a bit confusing because it is not only the name of the grape and one of the styles made, but is also the region. Most consumers think of Vinho Verde as a light easy drinking wine that is meant to be drunk young. As an added bonus, it’s also low alcohol, averaging between (9% – 11% alc).While that is all true, there is a lot more to it then just that. For example, Vinho Verde not only pertains to young white wine but also to rose and red wine. Vinho Verde can also be sparkling or distilled.
Our trip focused on the whites of the region. The main grapes used for the white wines are alvarinho, arinto, loureiro, trajadura, azal and avesso. All of these are indigenous varieties of Portugal and produce light wines with acidity but also with body. A very nice combination on the palate. Throughout the trip, we tasted not only the still white wines but also the sparkling wines of the region, which are less well known but equally as good.
One of the sparkling wine producers we met was Luiz Cerdeira, son of the founder of Soalheiro. They are located in the northern most part of Portugal, in Melgaço and specialize in alvarinho. They produce both still and sparkling wines. Sitting on the balcony of the winery overlooking the vines with the border with Spain just at the bottom of the hill was a delightful experience.
We sipped their Brut Rose as well as the sparkling alvarinho. I think those sparklers could easily compete on an international scale. They had great acidity, tiny bubbles and lovely bouquets on the nose. I was well impressed by their sparkling wines. They are available here in the UK and very well priced.
We travelled around the region for few days and got to visit other producers which I will be posting about in the next few days. Until then, keep a look out for those Portuguese sparkling wines.