Vinho Verde is probably Portugal’s best known still wine these days. Twenty to thirty years ago, it probably would have been Mateus Rosé. I encounter a good number of questions regarding vinho verde, so I thought I would explain it a bit more here.
Firstly, one thing most people don’t realize is that Vinho Verde is a DOC in the very North of Portugal bordering Rias Baixas in Spain. Vinho Verde, like Rias Baixas, is know for its white wines, although they produce some reds and roses. “Vinho Verde” itself means “green wine” literally; but this is more a reference to young crisp, unoaked wines that like Chablis or others can have a slightly greenish twinge in the glass, or are “green” in a “young” sense. Furthermore, not all Vinho Verde whites are this simple either; it is a generalization.
Secondly, vinho verde is a one style of wine that comes from this DOC. So “vinho verde” is both the region and 1 style of white wine that region produces – because it is the most well known style from that region. However, it is not the only style of white wine from this DOC.
If you know vinho verde at all, you probably recognize it is in clear glass bottles, possibly with a bluish tint versus a greenish one, although not necessarily. A “vinho verde” is light, dry, slightly lower in alcohol typically (11+ %), and can be ever so slightly petillant or can have a very slight fizz to it. Here is a point I would like to make: vinho verde is not necessarily fizzy! It should be light and crisp though, and easy to drink.
Most vinho verde is either a blend of grapes, or less typically, made from a single grape variety. Some typical grapes used in vinho verde are: Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso and Azal. The Portuguese clone “Alvarinho” of what is known as Albariño is also grown in the Vinho Verde DOC with spectacular results. Mostly a wine made from alvarinho in this DOC is referred to as an “Alvarinho” not a “vinho verde.” Although there are exceptions!
Basically “vinho verde” as wine is typically a lower alcohol, possibly ever so slightly petillant (fizzy) wine, that is crisp and easy to drink, and which comes from the DOC of Vinho Verde.
Exception: there are more serious vinho verde white wines that are still and may be a blend of different grapes, including alvarinho. So the wine “vinho verde” also has a serious side and is worth seeking out. A pure Alvarinho from Vinho Verde DOC is different than an Albariño from Rias Baixas inSpain and is really worth seeking out as well.