Ratings: 8 Vinho Verde Bottles to Drink Right Now
If there’s one thing to know about Vinho Verde—which in Portuguese translates to “green wine”—it’s that this wine isn’t green. Despite the unappealing thought of an emerald-hued wine, that’s a common misconception of Vinho Verde, says João Miguel Maia, producer of Portugal-based Casa de Vilacetinho winery. The wine isn’t tied to a specific blend or varietal, but rather refers to bottlings from a region in Portugal.
These wines are perfect for sipping in the summer sun, with tart acidity and a subtle fizz. Indeed, after getting to know them, you might make Vinho Verde your go-to wine region for warm weather. Here’s everything you need to know before picking up your first bottle.
What Is Vinho Verde?
Vinho Verde is a wine region wedged into the northwest corner of Portugal, just below the border with Spain. Like many areas, like Bordeaux or Rioja, wines are often sold under the region name but vary in all other aspects.
“Like any other region, Vinho Verde produces white, red and rosé wines,” explains Miguel Maia. They typically contain a blend of indigenous Portuguese grape varietals, such as Loureiro, Alvarinho, Arinto, Azal, Avesso, Trajadura and Fernão Pires, he says. “But most people associate Vinho Verde with a style of white wine, which may be described as light, fresh, aromatic and slightly [effervescent].”
Where Did the Name “Vinho Verde” Come From?
“Some people think that the grapes are harvested early, or harvested when they’re green and therefore they make a green wine,” says Tiago Soares, winemaker at Sapateiro winery in Vinho Verde. “But it’s not necessarily because of that.” Neither is it because the region is verdant all year round, he adds.
The name likely comes from the fact that the wines were traditionally released young—within three to six months after harvest, Soares says. This lent them a fresh and light characteristic with high acidity and low alcohol. These qualities are still prominent today, along with the spritz-like nature for which Vinho Verde wines are known. More on that below.
What Kind of Wine Is Vinho Verde?
Another common misconception is that the Vinho Verde region only produces white wines. Up until the ‘80s, most of the wines produced here were red. This was the type of wine locals preferred, Soares says. “The farmers would drink from ceramic bowls. They liked to see the bloody dark color of the wine against the white porcelain,” he says.
It wasn’t until Portugal began exporting more wines that whites became more predominant, Soares explains. The region’s preferred style of light, acidic wine is better served by white varietals, which led Vinho Verde to gain an association with white wines.
“In the region, you can make white, red, rosé, vinegar, brandy or sparkling wine, as long as it’s made with autochthonous varieties from the region,” Soares adds. “If they are grown inside the region and have a spectrum of flavors that are expected for these wines, that’s Vinho Verde.”
But these typical tasting notes can vary depending on the sub-region and the winemaker. Typically the flavors of Vinho Verde wines are citrusy, ranging from lime to lemon zest to grapefruit. But some styles are “more ripe, with notes of nectarine or peach, and hints of lychee and passion fruit,” Soares adds.
All Vinho Verde wines, however, regardless of color, have a slight spritz, high acidity and relatively low alcohol.
How Is Vinho Verde Made?
Although Vinho Verde wines are produced like any other white, red or rosé, “the biggest differentiating feature of Vinho Verde wines is that they are lightly sparkling,” says Miguel Maia. “In the past, this fizziness was obtained through a natural second fermentation in the bottle, similar to a pét-nat.”
Nowadays, though, winemakers add carbon dioxide at the bottling stage to achieve the spritz-like texture.
Vinho Verde Bottles to Try
Although you may see some bottles older than 2020 on the market, it’s recommended not to consume Vinho Verde that is older than this, explains Wine Enthusiast Tasting Director Anna-Christina Cabrales.
“Vinho Verde are wines that should be consumed immediately due to their light flavor profile and delicate effervescence,” Cabrales says. “You don’t want the bottles to be too old, as they may fall flat or not feel as energetic.”
Included in this list are the best examples of bottles we’ve previously rated that are still acceptable to drink today, she notes.
J. Portugal Ramos 2021 Alvarinho (Vinho Verde)
The wine comes from the Monçao & Melgaço region of Vinho Verde, the home of Alvarinho. It is a textured wine, poised between freshness and ripe white fruits. The wine will softer over the next few months, broadening out very satisfactorily. Drink from 2023. 90 Points —R.V.
Are Vinho Verde Wines Sweet or Dry?
Fresh, fruity and floral, Vinho Verde wines err on the drier side.
“Normally, Vinho Verde wines are semi-dry,” says Miguel Maia. “In our case, one of the wines we make in this style has a residual sugar of six grams per liter. Another has only 2.5 grams per liter.”
Is Vinho Verde Similar to Pinot Grigio?
Because of the number of indigenous grape varietals in the Vinho Verde region and the fact that most of its wines are blends, it’s difficult to compare Vinho Verde wines with those made from other varietals, Soares says. However, some single-varietal Vinho Verde bears a resemblance to Pinot Grigio, while others are similar to Sauvignon Blanc.
“There are styles of Loureiro along the lines of Sauvignon Blanc,” Soares says. “And a blend of Loureiro, Arinto—also called Pederna—and Trajadura can deliver wines similar in style to Pinot Grigio.”
Do You Drink Vinho Verde Wines Cold?
White wines from Vinho Verde are usually served cold. “Most people serve the wines around 6°C (42.8°F) and then they warm up while served in the glass,” says Soares.
What Do You Eat with Vinho Verde?
The tartness and light fizz of Vinho Verde wines mean they pair well with summery foods like grilled fish, seafood and salads, says Miguel Maia. “However, given that this style of wine is light, it doesn’t necessarily need to be paired with food. It can be drunk on its own, by the pool or the beach,” he suggests.
“[For the grape varieties] Loureiro and Azal, I would drink those styles of wines with something spicy,” Soares recommends. “For example, seafood rice that we eat in Portugal, we make it with spices. I love to have Azal or Loureiro [with this dish]. It’s like a palate cleanser on your mouth, so it’s a great match.”
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