Vinho Verde: A Different Kind of Portuguese Green
June 7th is Monção Melgaço Sub-region Day so in honor of this celebration let's head into Northern Portugal right into the heart of the Vinho Verde region.
It's the largest Denomination of Portuguese Origin occupying about 24 thousand hectares. Corresponding to almost 15% of the national vineyard area, white wines of the Alvarinho variety are the leading protagonists of this area in the north.
The Denomination of Origin Vinho Verde Wines has existed since 1908 and has been regulated since 1926. A few years later in the 1930s, the Alvarinho variety was registered for Monção and Melgaço wines. Geographically it's located in the northwest corner of Portugal in the area traditionally known as Entre-Douro-e-Minho (between the Douro and Minho).
Vinho Verde - the grape varieties, grapevine management, soil, climate, exposure, and altitude give the wines produced from here their unique characteristics, hence the importance of regulating and guaranteeing production while honoring the regionality.
And it's high time that we stop saying “today I'll drink a green wine.” Instead, we should say “today I'll drink a white wine from the region of Vinho Verde.”
Some quick facts about Portugal's famous Vinho Verde (Green wine)
Vinho Verde is a denomination of wine, not a type of grape;
Vinho verde wine is not green in colour;
Vinho Verde is not always a white wine made with white grapes but can also be made from red grapes.
It's true that white Vinho Verde wines are the most well-known and produced. But it's also possible to drink a red Vinho Verde, a rosé, natural sparkling, aguardente vínica (a Portuguese fine brandy) - even a Vinho Verde bagaceira (moonshine).
It would help greatly with the education and enlightenment of the consumer if both Portuguese restaurants and supermarkets used the correct listing of separation of wines from this region not only on their wine menus but on their shelves as well.
Depending on the type, this wine should be in the section of grape varieties such as white wine, red wine, sparkling wine, etc. and not as a category in itself. Vinho Verde is not a type of wine, it is an origin of wine!
These wines traditionally have a unique and differentiated style and that justifies the reason for having created a Denomination of Origin in the first place.
What does White Vinho Verde taste like?
White wines from the Vinho Verde region, the most consumed and exported, are generally light, fresh, low in alcohol, high in acidity, exuberantly aromatic and may leave your mouth a little sweet at the end.
Vinho verde wines are ideal in the summer with light dishes, such as grilled white fish, cooked seafood with a classic mayonnaise dip, or with spicy food.
However, there is a different “green” - the Monção Melgaço territory. These white grapes of the Alvarinho variety invariably show more attitude in the glass, more alcohol degree, and complexity, in addition to a dry finish.
This territory borders towns with a wealth of heritage that visitors can see by their castles and walls.
Not far from important ports, such as Viana do Castelo, there are records that attest to the exportation of “Monção” wines to England in the middle of the 16th century. Yes, well before Port wine!
Today this area has 1730 hectares of vineyards, of which 1340 are from Alvarinho. 2085 grape growers (winegrowers) and 67 bottlers are registered with the Vitivínicola Regional Vinho Verde (CVRVV) Commission. It produces about 10.2 million liters annually, of which 85% is white, 11% are red, and 4% rosé.
Since 2017, there is a label that guarantees the authenticity of wines from Monção Melgaço.
Thus, all wines with a Controlled Denomination of Origin (DOC) Vinho Verde from harvested and vinified grapes in the sub-region, with bottling carried out by registered economic agents only, can use the seal of guarantee.
Given the proximity to the Spain border, just on the other side of the Minho River, we share some varieties of grapes between us so the real origin is debatable.
Because of this you'll also find, for example, wines from Albariño, the Spanish word for Portugal's Alvarinho grape variety and Treixadura (Trajadura).
Describing Alvarinho, I would say that it has a more intense color than other grapes from the area, which is very present in the wine. It's also distinct with complex aromas, ranging from quince, peach, lemon to passion fruit. In the mouth, the wine is equally complex and persistent right up until the very last sip.
The richness in acidity combined with the dry flavor is what highlights the wines of the Monção Melgaço sub-region. For all these reasons and more the potential for longevity in the bottle is great.
To learn more about Vinho Verde wine, why not attend the Monção e Melgaço Web Experience of CVRVV on June 5th and 6th.
Full program available here.