In the northwestern corner of Portugal, you will find Vinho Verde. The unique landscape marked by cool, rainy terrains is producing a wide range of indigenous grape varieties showcasing the versatility of the region. What’s more, the character of each subregion showcases unique flavor profiles of each variety, whether blended or on its own. These wines, with their great combination of remarkable acid-driven varieties, divergent microclimates, and nuances of terroir are showing that Vinho Verde is producing age-worthy wines that are standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the best wines in the world.
A Sense of Place and its Indigenous Varieties
The art of blending is a trademark across the country. However, single-variety wines have been highlighting the region’s impressive potential, paving an understanding of a sense of place, its people, cultivation systems, winemaking techniques, and production.
South and East of Oporto, close to the Douro Valley, Avesso is a found in the subregions of Baião, Amarante, Paiva, and Sousa. Avesso shines with hints of floral, a flinty minerality, packed with peach and orange aromas with persistent flavors of white plums and almonds. With a potential for aging, Avesso is a rising star contributing to the diversity of Vinho Verde.
The most planted white variety in Vinho Verde, Loureiro is better adapted to the coastal areas, by the valleys of rivers in sub-regions like Lima, Cávado, Ave, and Sousa. Loureiro refers to “louro/laurel” as its aromas are deeply reminiscent of fresh bay leaf. Elegantly floral and herbaceous, Loureiro shines with citrus fruit and green apple, jasmine, rose petals, acacia and beeswax, orange blossom, and lemon verbena. A bone dry, crisp wine with a seductive structure and natural well-balanced acidity. Having previously lived in the shadow of Alvarinho, Loureiro was traditionally blended with other varieties such as Arinto, Trajadura, and Azal. Today, this monovarietal presents a diversity of styles from oak-aged to single parcel wines, elevating its versatility and proving to be a cellar-worthy white wine.
Red varieties also shine in Vinho Verde, from bracing roses to vibrant reds. Espadeiro’s fresh wild berry aromas with the floral and fruity notes of Padeiro, produce friendly rosé wines. Wines crafted with Vinhão are very food-friendly, with lots of character, firm tannins, deep color, and intense red fruit flavors, while Alvarelhão offers subtlety and elegance.
Alvarinho and the Uniqueness of the Monção e Melgaço Subregion
Across Vinho Verde, Alvarinho shines with aromas of jasmine, orange blossom, lemon balm, and fresh-cut grass. Toward the Spanish border, overlooking Rias Baixas, you will find the subregion of Monção e Melgaço. The region is characterized by an amphitheater of sunny hillsides around the southern bank of the Minho river. Monção is located lower by the Minho river, while Melgaço is at slightly higher altitudes, but the vines in each location flourish benefiting from the shelf of the mountain ranges creating an area with limited Atlantic breeze and rainfall, naturally controlled humidity and temperatures, and more frequent sunshine.
Alvarinho is now found in other parts of Vinho Verde and in other countries, but its pedigree is in the subregion of Monção e Melgaço. The clusters of Alvarinho are small with medium-sized yellow to green berries, at times with a pinkish hue when exposed to Monção e Melgaço’s sunshine. Alvarinho delights with a wide aromatic range of orange blossom, violets, fresh citrus, and tropical fruits. Alvarinho from Monção e Melgaço showcases the quality and aging potential of the varietal.