At first glance you might think I am talking about an eco-friendly wine. In fact, many restaurants with organic and green practices have started to feature vinho verde in their menus. It might come as a surprise to most of you but my friends vinho verde is not necessarily “verde” in fact, vinho verde can come in a variety of colors; red, rose or white. Furthermore vinho verde does not stand for a wine cultivated and processed following green practices, nor does it come from green grape varietals. Now that we have eliminated all green possibilities let’s explore this lovely lightly sparkling wine.
Vinhos Verdes are originally from the Minho region of Portugal and its surrounding areas. The term refers to young wines as opposed to mature wines and their main characteristic is a slight effervescence that was originally the result of malolactic fermentation in the bottle. This also meant a less than clear wine with unpleasant opacity. To avoid exposing the consumer to this visual experience vinhos verdes were mainly bottled in dark bottles. More recently the sparkle in vinhos verdes is added via artificial carbonation.
Vinhos Verdes have a protected designation of origin therefore the term does not apply to all young wines. If someone offers you a vinho verde that does not originate in Portugal your most likely having a wine made in the style of vinho verde. In Minho the vines are trained to grow high into walls, fences and trees. By doing this it allows farmers to produce vegetables in the areas below the vine. While vinho verde can be made from over 25 grape varietals the most commonly used are Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura.
Vinho verde is a summer wine with citrus-like flavor profile that goes well with seafood. Keep in mind that vinhos verdes have artificial bubbles. If you are not a fan of bubbles but you like the flavor of vinho verde you might want to try an Albariño from Spain.
So if you are looking for a vinho verde in Napa I have bad news. You won’t find one. As a consolation prize and to celebrate St. Patrick’s I am sharing with you a secret creation from a local Napa mixologist:
Vinho Verde Sangria
1 Bottle of Vinho Verde Vidigal 2011
¼ Cup of Key Lime juice
¼ Cup of Lemon Juice
5 Drops of Angostura bitters
½ Cup of simple syrup
1 Cup of green grapes seedless cut in half
1 Cup of green apples with peel cubed small
¼ Midori Melon
Mix all the tasty ingredients in a pitcher. Serve in tumblers with crushed ice. Garnish with lime and mint!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day