Wine of the Week: The wines of Portugal’s Vinho Verde

The Vinho Verde region is the largest sanctioned wine-growing appellation in Portugal, yet it has been virtually dismissed among American consumers for years in favor of Portugal’s namesake wine, Port. But that’s about to change.

Over the last decade or so, growers, winemakers and producers in the Vinho Verde region have been leading an orchestrated campaign to promote their vibrant white wines. Based on growing sales in the U.S. marketplace, it’s working.

Tucked in the country’s northwest, it borders Spain to the north while brushing up against the cool Atlantic to the west. The city of Oporto lies on its southwestern border.

The Vinho Verde region is influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic, making the cool-climate wines high in acidity. The vines grow in fertile granite soil that lend the wines a distinct minerally or salty component.

Vinho Verde is well-known for its high-acidity white wines. While many are blends of the seven certified grapes, the flavor of each blend depends on the amount of each of the varietals used.

For example, Loureiro is floral. Trajadura is steely. Arinto (known here as Pedernã) adds a mineral component, while Avesso is both minerally and creamy. And the famous Alvarinho grape (Albariño in Spain) provides finesse and fragrance.

The Azal Branco grape adds base structure and is usually blended with some of the more aromatic grapes. Most white Vinho Verde can be light, crisp and aromatic, often with a light prickle of fizz and occasionally a touch of sweetness.

Best of all, they represent a terrific value, with most wines priced under $20 and many under $15,

While white wine is king in the Vinho Verde appellation, there are some reds and roses that are produced in limited quantity. The reds tend to be deep and tannic, and are mostly made from Vinhão, Borraçal and Amaral grapes.

The rosés are very fresh and fruity, usually made from Espadeiro and Padeiro grapes. And since 1999, the official governing body of Vinho Verde has permitted fully-sparkling wine production.

While Vinho Verde wines may be reasonably priced, they are not “cheap” wines. However, they are best consumed within a year of bottling. The region’s producers have come a long way, making wines that are interesting to drink, while still retaining the fresh, vibrant flavors they are famous for.

Vinho Verde means “green wine,” but make no mistake, there is nothing “green” tasting about the 2019 Las Lilas. It’s a classic blend of 75% Louriero, 12.5% Treixadura and 12.5% Arinto.

It features a very floral bouquet of jasmine and gardenias. The bright palate of citrus and peaches play well off the tangy, lime-laden finish. Mineral undertones provide a sound body for the wine and a solid foil for lobster or shrimp salad. $10

Since its founding in 1870, the Aveleda family has had a passion for winemaking as well as for sustainability, biodiversity attention to detail. The 2019 Quinta da Aveleda Fonte from Vinho Verde is now made by the fifth generation of Aveledas with the same passion as their forebears.

The nose offers fruit scents of nectarine and white peaches. In the mouth, flavors of ripe peach and pear are highlighted by notes of lime that linger on the finish. Try it with grilled shrimp. $11

The 2019 Quinta de Soalheiro Alvarinho is from the Melgaço appellation where the Alvarinho grape is king. This single varietal wine has a very aromatic nose, with scents of white flowers and tropical fruit.

The mineral-laden palate is lifted by vibrant peach, papaya and citrus notes that add a sense of richness on the palate. A touch of salinity on the finish calls out for fresh shucked oysters. $20

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