There are some wines that are meant to challenge the heat of summer. Wines which are crisp, lively, and refreshing. Vinho Verde is one of those wines.
Vinho Verde is a cool, rainy winemaking region in Northwestern Portugal, which extends from Portugal’s northern border with Spain, down to the city of Porto. The cool and rainy climate makes it difficult to ripen grapes.
Red, rosé, and white wines are all produced in Vinho Verde, but it’s perhaps most famous in the US for its whites. There are a host of grapes grown in Vinho Verde, some of which are familiar (alvarinho—the same as Spain’s albariño), some that are less familiar (trajadura), and some that are gaining popularity with wine minded folks (loureiro).
As with any winemaking region, there are many different producers and styles of wine being made in Vinho Verde. Here are four stylistic things to know about Vinho Verde’s white wines:
The hallmark of Vinho Verde is acidity. Regardless of grapes, style, or vintage these wines are fresh with a racy acidity. This makes them a brilliant match to seafood (perfect with oysters or any ocean dwelling creature for that matter). This vibrant acid note also makes them quite refreshing on a hot day. (Picture cool, tart lemonade on a hot summer’s day. While these wines taste nothing like lemonade, they provide a similar effect—but way more fun!)
2. Blends and Single Variety
Many Vinho Verde are blends of two or more grapes. Loureiro, trajadura, arinto (aka. pedernã), avesso, and alvarinho are the most popular. However, there are plenty of single-variety Vinho Verde being made. Both styles are widely available and both do a great job expressing the terroir of this region.
3. Still, Sparkling, and Effervescent
Vinho Verde can be made in still and sparkling styles. You’ll commonly find them either still or with a slight spritz. That hint of sparkle creates a delightful impression of freshness and makes them all the more refreshing.
4. Vintage and Non-vintage
There are producers creating vintage wines (ie. wines made from grapes that were all grown and harvested in a single, specified year) and non-vintage wines (a blend of wines from two or more years). There are great wines being made in both of these styles.
All of that said, here are three wines from Vinho Verde that everyone should try and fall in love with:
1. Anselmo Mendes Alvarinho Contacto 2013
This is hands down one of my favorite expressions of Vinho Verde. Made from 100% alvarhino, this rendition is still and produced from a single vintage. Fresh and bright this Vinho Verde shows plenty of citrus and tropical fruit notes with a serious mineral backbone. Typically this wine is on the retail shelf for about $20. You can find it right now at The Barrel Room in downtown San Francsico.
2. Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2013
This is another Vinho Verde that I could drink constantly. The 2013 Quinta de Azevedo is made from 70% loureiro and 30% arinto (aka. pedernã). As expected, it shows brilliant acidity and has floral, citrus, and mineral notes with a long finish. This is a wine that isn’t often seen in retail settings, however it can currently be found on several wine lists in San Francsico including Waterbar and Manos Nouveau.
3. Aphros Loureiro 2012
Aphros makes a variety of Vinho Verde. The Loureiro is 100% loureiro and made in a still style. Clean, lemony, and mineral with a touch of grapefruit and melons this Vinho Verde is aged on its lees to give it a slightly creamy texture. You can find this wine for $18 at Bay Grape in Oakland.
In addition to these great wines, there are a host of other producers out there that are making tasty, simple, and extremely affordable expressions of Vinho Verde. Aveleda, Broadbent, and Gazela are all readily available at your local grocery store or bottle shop and all should be under $10.
Grab some Vinho Verde, chill it down, find some seafood, and get summer going.