In the lush, verdant, and picture-perfect valleys of northwestern Portugal, one of the world’s most historic wine regions is undergoing a quality revolution. Today, Vinho Verde is reclaiming primacy as one of the go-to Old World producers of premium, terroir-driven wines, and it’s capturing the attention of casual drinkers and revered wine professionals.
Age-worthy, oaked and lees-aged white Vinho Verdes? Check. Red, rosé, and even sparkling Vinho Verde? Yes, absolutely. Native varieties? More than you can name. Each brings its own nuances to the blend or shines as varietal wines. Just when you think you’ve got Vinho Verde all figured out, there’s always a stunning new discovery to be made.
Indigenous varieties Alvarinho, Avesso, Loureiro, and Trajadura yield aromatic, layered, and complex whites. Many of these uniquely Portuguese grapes aren’t planted anywhere else in the world, so they are the rare product of millennia-old viticultural tradition that stays true to its roots while embracing innovation. Native reds Padeiro, Espadeiro and Vinhão are known for their intense, berry-fruit-dominant rosés and fresh vibrant, fuller-bodied reds. These are especially on-trend for wine lovers looking for freshness in their reds, and sommeliers looking for place-specific wines that shine with all types of cuisine.
The future of Vinho Verde, however, might just be its premium whites, which, contrary to popular misconceptions, have a lot in common with premier cru Chablis, Riesling or Chenin Blanc. These expressions are for those who know and appreciate the best wines of the Old World. Boasting intense minerality, layers of exotic fruit, floral aromas and vibrant acidity, premium Vinho Verde is a welcome guest at the table.
“Vinho Verde wines are complex, dynamic, and age-worthy, and belong in the glass and hearts of serious wine lovers,” writes Erik Segelbaum of SOMLYAY LLC. “As sommeliers, we have the opportunity to explore this region in our programs or on our store shelves. There is an immense groundswell of production of premium Vinho Verde wines, and producers are focusing on micro-terroirs, sub-regional vinification, appropriate application of oak and bottle age, and many other factors that are resulting in pure deliciousness in the glass.”
It’s an extremely versatile food wine, too.
“Vinho Verde makes a great partner to shellfish and sashimi,” says top wine critic and noted Vinho Verde aficionado Joshua Greene, with sommelier Segelbaum adding that, “If it lives underwater, there’s a perfect expression of Vinho Verde for it. Sushi, grilled octopus, squid, mussels, tuna, sardines, seaweed—they all work with the various styles of Vinho Verde.”
Premium Vinho Verde also pairs beautifully with a range of roasted meats, as well as everything from Thai takeout, to traditional Mexican dishes to Mediterranean flavors.
“There is a Vinho Verde for the spice of Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine, a Vinho Verde for the intensity and heat of Latin American flavors, one for the robustness of Middle Eastern dishes and another for the delicacy of European gastronomy,” says Segelbaum.
Best of all, prices for this region’s premium expressions haven’t yet caught up to its quality. So, you can win wine-and-takeout-night, or even special-occasion-tasting-menu-night, with a bottle that delivers extraordinary complexity and value.