The literal translation is Green Wine, although the color is more accurately lemon/straw. More on that later. Because it is harvested early and bottled three month later, its alcohol content is low. Its body is as light as they come and its nose and palate reflect lemon/limeade, grapefruit, white melon and gooseberry. There is salinity too, no doubt from the adjacent Atlantic Ocean. And just for yucks and giggles, a CO2 spritz is added! So if you're looking for a summertime outdoors fun wine, this just might be it. It's a natural with all sorts of seafood and salads and picnics and beaches and if you're with me so far, here's the rest of the story...
Vinho Verde is the very large wine district in the northwestern corner of Portugal. It actually accounts for almost ten percent of the total vineyard lands of Portugal. The area is sort of a cross between a vertical rectangle and the shape of the state of Illinois if you're high on acid and looking at it in a mirror.
This region is lush with greenery fed by the humidity provided by the Atlantic Ocean and the Douro and Minho rivers. As we've said, the Vinho Verde name literally means green wine but that greenness really applies to the youth of the wine (as in green fruit). It is also believed the Verde name may have originally referred to the green landscape of the region.
The Vinho Verde wine region was created in 1908, regulated in 1926 and given its DOC in 1984. Of the nineteen grapes allowed in the region, Alvarinho is by far the most important. Alvarinho is the Portuguese version of Spanish Albarino, which some consider to be the great white grape of that country. Alvarinho complements Loureiro and Arinto and other blenders with both citric and tropical fruit flavors. Loureiro, the second most important grape in the blend, adds a floral component and Arinto offers lemon. All three of these are acidic in nature.
The vast majority of Vinho Verde is made by wine cooperatives. Currently we have four brands in the store. The best sub-regions of Vinho Verde lie at the top of the map where, unsurprisingly, Alvarinho flourishes. There the granite soils offer a minerality to the wine that the schist soils to the south do not. Single varietal Alvarinho wines and Alvarinho/Loureiro blends are now being aged in oak to make the finest Vinho Verdes.