Still searching for that perfect hot-weather wine in the waning days of summer? Try a bottle of Portugese Vinho Verde.
Vinho Verde is produced in the Minho region, located in the northwest corner of the country. The area was first demarcated as a wine region in 1908, and the name comes from the green color that covers the landscape. For the most part, the wine is made from grape varieties unfamiliar to us, such as Alvanrinho, Arinto, Avesso, Loureiro and Trajadura.
Even so, the white Vinho Verde is becoming a favorite of American consumers. It makes the perfect aperitif for many reasons—it’s bone-dry, low in alcohol, slightly effervescent, and stimulates the appetite with brilliant acidity. Best of all, in these wobbly economic times, it’s a bargain; most Vinho Verde can be purchased for less than $10.
Perhaps best known in the U.S. are the wines of Aveleda, from a picturesque estate that has been family-owned since the 11th century. Quinta da Aveleda ($8) is ripe and tart, filled with citrus flavors and bright acidity. Their Casal Garcia ($7) is more exotic, with notes of tropical fruit, banana and melon. Quinta de Azededo ($9) is tight and focused, filled with layers of lyrical citrus. Azevado also makes Gazela ($6), which is clean, crisp and fresh, a delightful match with finger foods and hors d’oeuvres of all sorts.
For a more full-bodied wine, try Quinta do Ameal ($16) from the sub-region of Lima, which has a rich mineral backbone highlighted by flavors of lemon and lime. To find a Vinho Verde to match with seafood or white meat dishes, journey to Moncao in Galicia, on the border with Spain. The main grape variety in this area is Alvarinho, the same grape used to make Albarino across the frontier in Rias Baixas. At the cooperative Adega de Moncao, I had the opportunity to sample a vertical of Alvarinho Deu la Deu going back to 1998. Think Vinho Verde doesn’t age? Wines with more than a decade of age were still rich and generous, with pinpoint acidity and a texture reminiscent of older Riesling.
If you’re fortunate enough to be travelling in this region, start in the city of Porto and work your way north. The roads are in pristine condition and clearly marked, the people are welcoming and friendly, the local seafood is just-caught and abundant, and you’ll come away with a different concept of Portugese wine in general and Vinho Verde in particular (www.vinhoverde.pt).