Beyond Vinho Verde: The Portuguese Region Producing Unforgettable Wines
Established in 1908, the Vinho Verde region occupies the majority of northwestern Portugal. It’s crisscrossed by scenic valleys that add depth and complexity to its wines. At its northernmost point lies the valley of the Minho River, where Portugal historically and geographically begins. From there, the subregions Monção and Melgaço unravel before your eyes in every curve of the path, granite stone window and curl of the vine.
Home to some of the best white wines in the country, Monção and Melgaço produce quality wines with personality that age beautifully in the bottle. The two villages were founded more than 700 years ago and currently border Spain, but wine has been part of daily life in the valley since long before the country’s borders were established. By the 15th century, the famous “vinho de Monção” was sought by English traders who lined the Portuguese coast, eager to trade it for codfish.
The Minho River separates Monção and Melgaço from their neighboring Rias Baixas, located on the north bank in Spain. The slopes of this valley are blanketed with elegant, meandering vines that descend smoothly to the river’s edge. Once granite stone, the soil here reflects millennia of erosion. It shimmers in the sunlight as the surrounding mountains loom majestically.
The subregions resemble a green amphitheater, facing the Minho and enclosed in a semi-circle of stately hills that protect it from the harsh winds of the Atlantic, providing cold, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. This geography creates perfect conditions for excellent wines.
The subregions grow many grape varieties, but Alvarinho, which originated in the Minho river valley, is present in nearly every white wine from Monção and Melgaço. The grape contributes considerably to area identity. Other varieties grown here include white wine grapes Trajadura and Loureiro, and red wine grapes Borraçal, Vinhão or Alvarelhão.