Colin Burbidge, of Lancashire Wine School, writes about the Portugese wine region of Vinho Verde.
Back in the 70s and 80s Vinho Verde was as popular as Liebfraumilch and Mateus Rosé.
From the 90s our palates were tickled by new tasty fruit-driven wines from Australia and California, so we abandoned Vinho Verde in pursuit of more intensely flavoured wines.
Vinho Verde (pronounced Veenyo Verda) is a Portuguese wine region lying north of the Douro (Port country) and running to the River Minho at the Spanish border.
Vinho Verde is often referred to as ‘green wine’. This does not refer to the colour but to the youth of the wine.
Vinho Verde is generally light in alcohol. The main grapes are Loureiro and Paderná with Riesling-like freshness and often have a little CO2 giving the wine a spritz.
In the north of the region, however, more expensive wines with higher alcohol levels and no CO2 are made using the Alvarinho grape (Spanish Albariño).
The spritz used to occur by accident with the cooler temperatures in the north of Portugal sending the yeast to ‘sleep’ in fermenting wine in the autumn. The wine then bottled through the winter would react to warmer spring temperatures with the awakened yeast producing a little CO2 through fermentation, which trapped in the wine produces bubbles when opened.
Fish is staple food in Portugal so when eating out there is a natural choice, and Vinho Verde its natural companion.
On a recent visit I was sold and so was everyone else at the table, it just works. The light alcohol (often 10 per cent or so) makes it a good summer wine, too, not too heady when the mercury rises and you’re looking for a thirst quencher.
We’ve tasted a handful of these wines at the Wine School at a variety of prices and all went down reasonably well.
Tesco’s Vinho Verde at just £5.25 isn’t half bad. Just 10.5 per cent alcohol and no vintage on the label suggests a wine blended from several harvests but that doesn’t detract from the simple pleasance of this wine. Slightly aromatic with lemon sherbert and green apple. A good glugger and dare I say a little more interesting than many of the inexpensive Pinot
Grigio wines available. Quinta de Azevedo from Majestic can be bought at a similar price.
Moving up the scale, Anjos de Portugal from DVino at around £9 is made from the Trajadura, Loureiro and Arinto grape varieties. Again 10.5 per cent alcohol with grapefruit, apple, floral and aromatic herbs this wine offers a little more intensity and will accompany most fish or seafood dishes.
The Quinta do Soalheiro Reserva 2013 we tasted some time ago is sadly no longer available from the wine society. This very serious wine at £23 was fermented in barrel and aged in a combination of new and old casks. Made using only the Alvarinho grape and with 13 per cent alcohol it packed a punch and offered great intensity with tropical fruit, mango, quince and pear and from the oak honey and brioche.
So next time you’re planning a fish dish, try a little Vinho Verde.