Vinho Verde is one of the wines which bear a mystery. On one hand it represents a quarter of Portugals wine production and is exported to some 55 countries in the world. Yet, outside Portugal this wine remains unknown or rather has the status of being some kind of insider tip. Or have you ever seen Vinho Verde on a restaurant wine list?
Nevertheless, Vinho Verde has the potential of becoming a cult wine (Actually, for me it already is one) for several reasons:
First of all, it is one perfect refreshing summer wine in its white wine version. Not only it has a low alcohol level of 8 to 11% and a light body with flowery nose but it also has some small bubbles giving it a real refreshing splash. But don’t get me wrong, these aren’t the same bubbles than in Champagne or Prosecco, but really tiny bubbles making the wine just a little foamy. These bubbles originally stem from the malolactic fermentation taking place after the pressing of the grapes. Nowadays most of the bubbles are added after fermentation, since the use of sulphite blocks the natural build up of carbonic acid (through malolactic fermentation). So Vinho Verde is somewhere between a medium dry or dry white wine and a sparkling wine. Or let’s just say, it’s different from any other wine you might know (except maybe a real DOC Prosecco from Valdobiadene)
Second of all, the name alone is worth a cult. In fact, Vinho Verde means “green wine” and comes from the fact that the grapes are harvested slightly before maturity, but the wine itself isn’t greenish. But the truth is Vinho Verde isn’t even only white wine: Actually Vinho Verde is the name of the producing region (DOC) in which also red grapes are growing resulting in red and rosé Vinho Verdes’. It is true though that if you mention Vinho Verde it is commonly understood as being the white whine slightly sparkling version you are talking about.
Another reason might be the fascinating vine growing techniques in the region. The vines are either planted next to trees where they would grow up the trunks, either they are planted at 6 to 8 meter high stakes. At some places the vines are eventually planted next to pergolas, where they would climb on it. The fertile ground under the pergola is frequently used for planting vegetables. Fascinating huh? The techniques are all explained in detail here.
But there must be a reason for its unpopularity outside Portugal. Maybe it is due to the fact that most of the Vinho Verdes being exported are the cheaper industrial wines and consumers possibly identify it as a cheap bad wine. This is something I can’t confirm. Sure, for 2 to 4 Euro you wouldn’t get an outstanding wine but for example the brand I saw most on the shelves, the “Gatao” (one of the most popular brands) is a pleasant wine perfectly accomplishing its role of a summer wine and represents a rather good value for money.
But actually there are a lot of better Vinho Verdes’ waiting for us to drink them. The only problem is that most of them stay in Portugal. In fact, more and more Portuguese winemakers are producing higher qualities (even dry whites without bubbles), or let’s say non-industrial wines. These are served at top restaurants in Portugal. I guess the Portuguese just want to keep the best wines for themselves ;). Anyway if these top wines are being noticed outside the country, the perception of the whole Vinho Verde DOC will be different.
But until this Vinho Verde boom starts, you should begin with trying your supermarket shelve Vinho Verde. I’m sure it will make your day during summer and you’ll get an idea of how the top Vinho Verdes might taste.