Vinho Verde : A Study In Diversity
- By Bruno Almeida
- 30 Dec 2020
- 5 MIN
- Level 101
The Vinho Verde region has over 22 centuries of winemaking history. Demarcated in 1908, it is the largest DOC in Portugal and one of the most symbolic of Portuguese wine regions. The CVRVV (Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes) was created in 1926 to regulate the production and marketing of its emblematic wines. According to old historic records, references to the existence of winemaking here can be traced back to the Romans in 96 to 51 BC, and wines made here were the first to be exported to pivotal markets like Flanders, the UK, and Germany.
Location, Location, Location...
Located in the northwestern corner of Portugal, Vinho Verde wines are inspired by the region’s vibrant green-coloured, cool, and very rainy landscapes; here vineyards grow in fertile terrains, phosphorus-poor, high acid, granite-based soils, located along channels of rivers flowing from chains of mountains inland to the coast.
Vinho Verde boundaries face the country’s border with Spain, by the Minho river in the north, stretching all the way down by the coast to the beautiful city of Oporto, with the Douro river to the south along with the Montemuro, Arada, and Freita hills. To the east, the Geres, Peneda, Marão, and Cabreira mountain ranges overlook the Atlantic ocean to the west.
A Unique Climate (With Its Unique Challenges)
Vinho Verde has a maritime-to-continental climate, where summers are quite hot and dry, and winters are often cold, humid, and very cloudy with a high annual rainfall of around 1,200 mm. Its wet weather makes the ripening cycle quite challenging. In the past these climatic issues were countered by the old tradition of training vines on pergolas or “ramadas” along the edges of fields, with some vines being trained up in trees using the “enforcado” system, to free up the middle of fields for other crops. Many small plantings are still trained in these traditional methods, but nowadays modern vineyards trained low on wires are the norm, giving better yields, greater exposure to the limited sunshine, and leading to better ripening of the grapes.
A Substantial Diversity Of Subregions And Grapes
The region is composed of nine subregions, all named for rivers or towns. The Alvarinho grape is the king of the north, ruling the subregion of Monção and Melgaco. Here the grape is floral and aromatic, packed with stellar complexity, and the potential for serious ageing. It is often blended with the delicate low-acid Trajadura, the sharp and vibrant Pedernã (Arinto), and the peachy and fragrant Loureiro, all planted along the coast in the Lima, Cavado, Ave, Sousa, and Paiva subregions. The clean and flinty Avesso, along with the fresh and zesty Azal, become more prominent as one moves inland to the Basto, Amarante, and Baiao subregions.
When it comes to red Vinho Verde, one finds lighter wines with plenty of acidity and low alcohol. The very inky and intense Vinhão grape is widespread throughout the region and often blended with others like Amaral, Borracal, and Alvarelhão, which is making inroads in the north with its elegant and harmonious character. The widespread Espadeiro and Padeiro make great options for light rosé wine production all over Vinho Verde.
Modern Wines With An Ancient History
Vinho Verde is marked by its wines’ aromatic, crisp, acid-driven style, giving us simple wines with the classic light fizz on the tip of the tongue, all the way to the delicious high quality still whites that can stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the best premium wines in the world.
The wide range and diversity of indigenous grape varieties expresses the versatility of the region, dependent upon subregion, and the unique flavour profiles of each individual variety, whether blended in or on its own.
Where once red varieties were dominant, white varieties are nowadays the centre of attention, and single variety wines are today seeing considerable success.
The diversity of the DOC Vinho Verde does not end here, as these versatile wines with their great combination of remarkable acid-driven varieties, divergent microclimates, and nuances of terroir
open up an endless range of pairing possibilities with so many cuisines of the world.
All of this being said, we haven’t even touched upon the region’s impressive sparkling wines and most promising brandies.
The future looks bright for Vinho Verde.