Monday, July 1, 2013

Going Green - Vinho Verde

On Friday July 5th from 5 to 7pm, Coleen Rotunno of Quality Wine & Spirits joins us with a  presentation of the wines of Aveleda of Portugal.  Aveleda is known for its Vinho Verde or "green wine" but that category actually includes reds, whites, and roses because "green" refers to the youth of the wine and not the color.  Please join us for that one as we examine these most quintessential of summer wines.

Vinho Verde is also the historic region of production of the wine of the same name.  It encompasses the Minho province and more in the far northwest corner of the country, so it lies on the Atlantic Ocean coast, explaining the wine's seafood affinity no doubt.  Documented history for this region's wines extends back to the first century AD with 1908 standing out as the first year of official state recognition of the Vinho Verde wine region.  In 1984 Vinho Verde was granted its DOC from the Portuguese government and with the creation of the European Union, it received its PDO, further legally protecting the product's identity.  Of course as always, it's the monks from way back when who planted the vineyards in the first place as an ongoing gift for us all.  Thank God for the monks!

The grape varieties in the various types of Vinho Verde are many and unknown to Americans but the white blend yields a straw colored, low alcohol, fresh and petillant, naturally acidic, fruity and floral quaffer.  Shrimp on the barbie, anyone?  The reds are surprisingly substantial by contrast and the roses are simply charming.  Shrimp on the barbie again, anyone?  Salads and green vegetables like asparagus would likewise sidle up quite comfortably with these wines.

Vinho Verde is the largest DOC in Portugal and it features beautiful landscapes and a thriving population engaged primarily in maritime industries.  The Vinho Verde wine production region is flanked by two major rivers, the Minho river to the north and Douro to the south.  Of the two the Douro is the better known because Portugal's greatest wine product, Port, finds its home vineyards on the Douro and the irony of it all is not lost on me.  How the heaviest of wines, fortified Port, can find its origins adjacent to the Gatorade of wines, Vinho Verde, is beyond me.  I just take it all in and it is good.

One of the most recognizable characteristics of Vinho Verde white wine is its effervescence.  Historically that his been a natural occurrence due to a second fermentation after bottling.  Now in our modern era that second fermentation is allowed to happen before bottling with the petillance winelovers find so attractive introduced at bottling with artificial carbonation.  This is one reason why Vinho Verde should be consumed within a year or two of bottling.

One last tidbit about Vinho Verde...the trellising.  Nowhere in the world will you see vines climbing telephone poles with workers picking berries from ladders.  This kind of viticulture began in the 16th century when maize was introduced to the region and things got somewhat congested at ground level.  Now the practice of training grapevines to climb vertically is usual and customary there because the heavy rainfall in the Vinho Verde regional climate means a variety of fungal diseases would flourish if vines were grown in the usual fashion.

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