Vinho Verde is a wine region and emphatically NOT a style of wine – (and you don’t pronounce the e on the end either – it rhymes with baird!). A lot of people, very understandably imagine that it’s called Vinho Verde because it’s a wine that is light, youthful and fresh – a bit green if you like – except that isn’t why it’s called that at all. You see you get red Vinho Verde too – it’s about the region – in a pretty arid country Vinho Verde is literally green to look at.
A number of different grapes are permitted in white Vinho Verde, among them Alvarinho – the same grape that is grown just over the Minho river in Spain as uber trendy Albarino. Others include Arinto, Azal, Avesso, Batoca, Loureiro and Trajadura which are recommended varieties, though there are others that are ‘permitted’ rather than recommended.
Much of Vinho Verde is made by large companies such as Sogrape or the coops, but there are increasing numbers of producers making some excellent wines that are really well made, interesting and worth seeking out. One of the very best is Quinta do Ameal. A single estate near Ponte de Lima that is unusual in that they specialise in varietal Loureiro.
Loureiro is a fragrant grape that can have good intensity, citrus and floral notes and good acidity – but it can be difficult to retain character in the wines. Ameal does this both in the vineyard where the pruning system they use is modified from local pergola sytems so that the vines are trained high enough to reduce vigor and ensure the grapes carry flavour, but not as high as local systems which leads to dilution in the finished wines.
Two main wine are made, Loureiro and Escolha a barrel fermented/matured version. These aren’t the cheapest wines in the world, but they are certainly worth it.
Loureiro 2010 – Fragrant with citrus and floral notes, textural with good intensity and fresh acidity. Fermented cool to retain citrus character and prevent more tropical notes taking over. Delicious.
Escolha 2009 – Minerally and citrus but with many more layers. Really very fine indeed, more open with a lovely mouthfilling texture. Very smart.
Loureiro 2004 – Just to prove these wines take a bit of age – if I didn’t know better I’d never imagine it were possible – they defy the normal logic – but Pedro – the estate owner and winemaker explains that it’s about acidity and balance. Rich but with lifted aromas, really good intensity and complex. Nutty a bit oily with citrus and some herbal notes.
Escolha 2004- Lovely richness, honeyed and nutty. Oxidative, complex and really stylish.