A New Era for Vinho Verde and It Starts With the Vineyard

Pedro Barbosa monitoring an Alvarinho parcel at Quinta da Aveleda

 

Most people know Vin­ho Verde is a wine, but don’t know it’s the name of the region. The largest DOC wine region in Portugal, in fact, stretching from the Spanish border to the Atlantic and de­fined by a lush green, hilly landscape and lots of rain.

People also assume, when they see the signature tall, thin green bottles from the region, that all Vinho Verde’s wines are light and simple, with a refreshing fizz and hint of sweetness. Yet that’s far from the whole story: Vinho Verde is capable of creating the best Portuguese white wines, complex, richly-textured wines—many of which have no spritz at all.

Aveleda, one of the region’s largest and oldest producers (est. 1870), chal­lenges these misconceptions with a port­folio of high-quality, crisp dry whites that taste nothing like much of the sweet, fizzy “soda pop”-style wine the region has earned a reputation for.

“Vinho Verde is still misunderstood,” notes Pedro Barbosa, Aveleda’s head of viticulture. “But in the last decades there has been a huge revolution in enology and viticulture that has allowed the region to produce high-quality wines. We have extremely good soils, high-elevation vine­yards and the influence of the Atlantic. If you plant the right grapes in the right places, you can make amazing wines.”

Vineyard in Celorico de Basto completely planted in schist soils

Exploring the Complexity of Soils

While winemaking in Vinho Verde predates the Romans, it’s hitting an unprecedented quality stride today and Aveleda—owned by the same family for 150 years—is a major force behind this revolution.

Achieving ripeness in this cold, wet region is always a challenge, as is manag­ing the vigor of the native grape vines. Aveleda’s solution has been to replant all the estate vineyards at a higher den­sity and the results have been extraordi­nary—grapes with far greater complexity, ripeness and flavor.

“By reducing space between the rows and increasing vine density, we naturally reduce the yields per plant and each vine pours more flavor concentration into each bunch,” Barbosa explains.

Vinho Verde whites are traditionally a blend of the region’s indigenous grapes. Aveleda’s intense study of the two most interesting varieties—Alvarinho (same as Spain’s Albariño) and Loureiro—led them to start bottling them as single va­riety wines. “Alvarinho is very concen­trated and dense on the palate—it gives subtle tropical and lemony aromas,” says Barbosa. “Loureiro is softer on the palate, but aromatically it’s explosive with floral and citrus notes, so you can see why they are complementary varieties. But they are also wonderful on their own and we wanted to highlight that.”

Aveleda, as the leader in the Vinho Verde Region, is exploring diffent soils and terroirs within the many sub-regions. Pedro Barbosa’s team has been working very successfully in this territory and as a result the brand Aveleda is working on a premium portfolio that will explore the richness of certain parcels and the rarity of certain soils “Our wines aim to express our region’s potential” says Barbosa. “We want the world to know Vinho Verde is capable of top-level wines.”

 

Published on November 26, 2019
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