While body-warming bottles of merlot and pinot noir might command the bulk of wine lovers’ attention throughout the winter, summer is white wine’s time to shine. Now, Vinho Verde is finally ready for its closeup in the American wine market. Traditionally, wine drinkers have gravitated toward familiar varietals like chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. There’s nothing wrong with having a classic go-to, but the rise in popularity of funky natural wines and once-shunned genres like rosé and orange wine has helped lure folks out of their vino comfort zones—creating more conscious, curious consumers.
The perfect wine for your summer table, Vinho Verde is known for its low price, mouth-watering levels of acidity, and subtle fizz. Much like the aforementioned wine types, Vinho Verde is actually nothing new, having been produced in northern Portugal for decades. Lucky for us, as its star continues to rise here in the U.S., more wine shop and bar owners are stocking wider varieties. Here’s why you should get your hands on a bottle as soon as the mercury rises above 75 degrees.
What is Vinho Verde?
Vinho Verde translates to “green wine,” but its name actually originates from the region where it’s produced. This differentiates Vinho Verde from other types of wine that are named for a specific type of grape, like cabernet sauvignon or riesling.
Found in the lush northern part of Portugal bordered to the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean, Vinho Verde is the country’s largest demarcated growing region. The region, known for its rolling hillsides and winding river channels, is so green that one could easily assume this is how the “Verde” moniker arose.
Despite its name, Vinho Verde can actually be made from seven major white grape varieties and three popular reds found in the region. In other words, a bottle of Vinho Verde can actually be white, pink, or even red. Vinho Verdes are also typically created from a blend of multiple grape varieties from the region—each grape lending unique qualities that help produce a balanced final product. One grape might provide the wine with a smoother mouthfeel, while another is known for its heightened minerality.
Despite the wide berth of grapes that can be used to produce Vinho Verde, there are definite characteristics that set Vinho Verdes apart. For one, they’re not typically meant to be aged. You don’t generally buy a bottle of “vintage” Vinho Verde. It’s not the kind of bottle meant to collect dust in your cellar or on your bar cart. Instead, you should plan to consume your bottle soon after purchasing, while it still retains its fizz and freshness. This stereotype might be primed for a shift over time, as Vinho Verde continues to grow in popularity and winemakers in the region play around with the idea of aging single-varietal Vinho Verdes. Keep a lookout in the future for more complex oaked Vinho Verdes. For now, plan on buying to promptly consume.
Vinho Verdes are also sparkling (usually artificially), and can range from a subtle fizz to full-on bubbles, thanks to the injection of carbon by the winemaker. While most Vinho Verdes available at present are white, red Vinho Verdes are an excellent substitute for lambruscos and taste delicious chilled on a warm evening. The rare bottle that isn’t spritzy might provide more tasting clarity for those really seeking the acidity and minerality Vinho Verde is known for, but bubbles sure make everything more fun.
Those in search of the perfect summer bottle might want to keep an eye out for those blended with a grape called loureiro, which produces light-bodied wines with floral notes and is sometimes called “the riesling of Portugal.” If a high punch of acid is your thing, seek bottles with the inclusion of azal. Wine lovers seeking the finest on the market should check out arinto grapes, as they’re typically packed with notes of melon and citrus.
Vinho Verde price
Another reason to grab a bottle (or three) of Vinho Verde right now is the low price point. The average price for a bottle of Vinho Verde hovers between $10 and $15 dollars—ideal for wine drinkers on a budget who are still looking for something different. Wine shop owners, like Kilolo Strobert of Brooklyn, New York’s Fermented Grapes, believe there will soon be a wider market for Portuguese wines at all price points.
“Portugal is totally blowing up in popularity,” Strobert says. “There are a lot of importers right now who are building their books off Portuguese wines,” says. “And it’s because the wines are truly excellent. They have a long history of winemaking and they’re close to the sea. That coastal influence has a huge influence in their winemaking. They also have a special thing going there with their history. It’s just super rich.”
Who knows if those low prices will continue to hold as Vinho Verde’s popularity rises in the U.S., but for now some of the most popular bottles of Vinho Verde, like Chin Chin by Quinta do Ermizio and Niepoort’s Nat Cool will set you back $20 or less. Some popular bottles cost even less, with prices clocking in at as low as six bucks.
Best bottles of Vinho Verde to try
1. Vē-Vē Vinho Verde
“Casal de Ventozela is the winery behind the popular Vē-Vē Vinho Verde,” says Strobert. “It’s bright, fresh, and exactly what you think of when you ask for Vinho Verde. A definite crowd pleaser that uses sustainable farming practices at an extremely pleasing price point.” Arinto, loureiro, and trajadura grapes are used.
2. Quinta da Palmirinha Loureiro & Branco Vinho Verde
“The owner and winemaker for Palmirinha is Fernando Pavia, who’s considered the first Demeter-certified biodynamic producer in Portugal,” The certification is used in over 65 countries to confirm biodynamic products meet international standards. “You can really taste quality in these wines, so we had to include the Loueiro on our shelves. It exceeds in texture, taste, and quality. Limited amounts were made, so they’re always sure to sell out.”
3. Bojo do Luar Deu Bode Red, Tez Orange, and Luar Rosa
“We continued our love of Vinho Verde and Portugal by picking up these three wines that are directly influenced by Fernando Pavia,” Strobert says. “The wines are stabilized by adding ground-up chestnut flowers instead of sulfites. Fernando Pavia is the pioneer of that process. On the natural scale, these three wines hit every checkpoint!”
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