Something has happened this winter in my area that without exaggeration has blown my mind. Green wine or as it is known by most…Vinho Verde from Portugal is flying of the shelf in the store I work at. We are selling as much of this wine now as we did during the warm summer months. What is this wine from Portugal and why is it gaining in popularity.

Vinho Verde (meaning green wine or young wine) is not the name of the grape, it is the name of the area where the grapes are grown or the DOP (Denominacao de Origen Protege) in the northwest of Portugal. The name implies that it is to be drunk immediately not to be stored in the cellar for future enjoyment. The grapes used maybe unfamiliar to us. It could be made from a combination of these grapes or a single varietal. Alvarinho, Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso Azai or Batoca. Just trying to remember them wears me out, let alone saying them. The white wine they produce from these grapes is light, fruity, low in alcohol and has a touch of spritz on the tongue. There in lies the appeal.

The other factor is that most are fairly inexpensive. My most popular selling Vinho Verde is a whopping eight bucks. I also believe that this is why it took a while for it to get a foothold in the market. Sometimes cheap means low quality to a lot of folks. However, despite the low price tag, many have gravitated to this wine and have come to appreciate its virtues. I carry six different Vinho Verde in my wine department and when it starts warming up they all sell well, the most expensive being ten bucks.

The low alcohol (most under 10%) is a real appeal to a lot of people. They can sit around and enjoy one or two bottles with friends and hardly feel the effect. During the Super Bowl it sold like crazy as folks took it to parties and washed down the junk food with this light, refreshing white, not feeling the worse for wear afterward. I believe the beer that I had at my Super Bowl party was higher in alcohol than Vinho Verde.

The slight spritz that this white has is also an attraction. This is caused by an addition of CO2 prior to bottling. It is such a spritz that it is not easily recognizable, but it is just enough to give a little tickle to the tongue that makes it that much more interesting. When you get into the more expensive versions, which are hardly expensive, you sometimes find an interesting mineral component that comes through. Some have a touch more fruit than others, and some can go to the bright side of the flavor spectrum.

To show how serious the Portuguese are about making this wine, there are over 50,000 acres of vines planted in this region with 9 sub-regions in the Vinho Verde DOP. The Alvarinho grape, known as Albarino in Spain is the most well-known. Loureiro and Trajadura and two of the grapes along with Alvarinho that are used in single varietal versions. Most however are combinations of the grapes grown in Vinho Verde. The most popular in my department is Famega. It runs at eight bucks a bottle and is exactly what folks like about this wine. Two of my favorites are Lima (named after one of the nine sub-regions) by J. Portugal and Arca Nova. They run about ten bucks, but are noticeably more complex than most. If you are looking for a fruitier version, I would point you to Gazela, which is a very tasty little wine at eight bucks (although it might be too fruity for some).

For now, I am going to sit back and watch as the popularity of this wine grows and wine drinkers start asking for different versions of what is available. There are examples out there that can run close to $2o of which I have not been able to get my hands on. I am always happy to see people expand their palates, and if Vinho Verde helps the cause, more power to it. The “Green Wine” has definitely got a “Green Light” from consumers.

Stan The Wine Man

About Stan The Wine Man

I am a blue collar wine guy who has been in the biz for over twenty years. I work at a store in a tourist destination stop. I work hard at finding the best wine for the money. I love the challenge of learning my customer's palate so I can find the best wine for them, whether it is Petrus or white zinfandel. Cheers!
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