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Wine Guide: Vinho Verde

Top Shelf Blogger, Cindy Rynning of Grape Experiences, transports us to Portugal with guide to Vinho Verde.

Photo by Michael McDuff

Current (Drinking) Mood – Vinho Verde

Earlier this summer, I spent four days sipping wines from the Vinho Verde region in northwest Portugal with a group of like-minded winelovers. Outside of Portugal, wines from this centuries-old region (the earliest reference to the area dates from 96-51 BC) haven't been at the top of many consumers' shopping lists. Frankly, I was one of them… until now. With about 51,000 acres of vines, 45 indigenous grape varieties, 18,000 winegrowers, 93 million liters produced per year and 100 export markets, this under-the-radar region is waiting to be rediscovered.

White varieties account for 86% of the production and reds and rosés are about 14% in total (I tasted plenty of each). Wines from Vinho Verde are my newest go-to choices. With a few things to keep in mind, they should be yours, too.

Vinho Verde is a region, not a specific wine:

Photo via Wines of Vinho Verde

Years ago, I mistakenly thought Vinho Verde was a specific grape. Nope. It's the region that encompasses all of northwest Portugal. The climate is affected by mountain ranges, valleys, and rivers. Annual rainfall, mostly in the winter and spring, is high and temperatures are aligned with the rain; when the temperature is hot, there is less rainfall and vice versa. Soils are mostly of granite, an important element in the profile of the wines.

With 45 indigenous grapes, we've got unique choices.

The most popular varieties, cultivated and found only in the Vinho Verde region, are white grapes Alvarinho, Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Loureiro, and Trajudura. Red varieties include Espadeiro, Padeiro, and Vinhao. Most likely, you'll easily find an Alvarinho, boasting notes of citrus, tropical fruit, violets, walnuts, and honey (depending on the winemaker's style) or Loureiro with its profile of fresh fruit, moderate acidity, and full body. Red and rosés may be more difficult to locate, but try. I particularly loved Vinhao with its aromas and flavors of blackberries and raspberries, full body, and balance.

It's a hot summer day? Stay cool with wine from Vinho Verde.

The Portuguese sun shone brightly most of our trip and yes, it was sweltering hot. But no worries… It was easy to cool off with a refreshing, chilled glass of white Vinho Verde with its signature crisp fruit and floral notes (some, not all, are lightly fizzy due to additional carbon dioxide). Poolside, a rosé with surprisingly bold red fruit elements was exhilarating. Then again, a red wine with its intense red fruit palate profile enjoyed while dining al fresco was the perfect pour.

Photo by Michael McDuff

Wines are lower in alcohol.

As designated by the Vinho Verde DO, the range of alcohol by volume (ABV) is 8-14%. A lower alcohol wine brings in the win for reasons we all know.

Drink Vinho Verde wines with your favorite foods (like sushi).

During the Vinho Verde experience, wines were mouthwatering pairings with a variety of local foods served. An Alvarinho with grilled octopus or an Azal with bacalhau (cod)? Yes, please. A snappy rosé with marinated sardines or a Padeira with herbed potatoes and mushrooms? Bring it! From raw oysters to sushi to roasted vegetables to braised meats, Vinho Verde wines reach food pairing nirvana.

The prices are ridiculously budget-friendly.

And yes, I saved the best for last. Quality wines from Vinho Verde can be snapped up for as little as $5. At that price, experiment with a few bottles. Invite friends to stop by and pair plenty of sips with your favorite foods.

Suddenly, your current mood, with Vinho Verde in the glass, is that much better.

About the Author:
Cindy Rynning is a Chicago based blogger who has been writing about wine for several years. Her articles have been featured on her own site, Grape Experiences, in digital magazines such as Crave Local and Wine Tourist Magazine, and as part of wine club newsletters including those for Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurants and Wine of the Month Club. Cindy reviews exceptional wines, interviews movers and shakers in the wine industry, shares adventurous tales of wine travel, and writes about mouthwatering food and wine pairings. Her mission is to help wine lovers find that perfect bottle of wine to swirl, sip, and savor…for any occasion. Check out her Top Shelf Blogger profile!