Vinho Verde

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Vinho Verde, dramatically improving dop in north-west portugal known for its distinctively light, fresh wines. Vinho Verde originated as a rough and ready local wine on a domestic scale. Following fermentation in open stone lagares, the wine would be run off into cask where the secondary malolactic conversion produced carbon dioxide. This was retained in the wine, giving it a slight sparkle. The better-known brands are typically slightly sweet, sparkling, non-vintage white wines made for early consumption (vinho verde means ‘green wine’, a reference to the youthful state in which wines were customarily sold). However, since the 1980s a shift towards better viticultural practices and more protective winemaking has challenged the old stereotype, resulting in a growing middle and upper tier of higher-quality wines from individual estates (the latter typically subregional varietal wines). The region’s verdant coastal strip (known as the Costa Verde or Green Coast) extends from Vale da Cambra south of the River douro to the River Minho that forms the frontier with Spain over 130 km/80 miles to the north (see portugal map), and the big brands (these days better made), represent most of production where rain-bearing westerly winds from the Atlantic support intensive cultivation on its granitic soils. Moreover, these fertile soils extend inland, along the rivers which criss-cross the region (and act as conduits for tempering ocean winds).