If you haven’t had the inexpensive, fizzy, low-alcohol Vinho Verde, buy as many as you can and enjoy them ice-cold on the few scorching days that remain in summer. If you already are a convert to the summertime joys of Vinho Verde, then we have some aspirational white wines from the region that can take you through the entire year.
The pleasant Northern Portuguese Vinho Verde takes its name from a green, or young, wine. The wine also comes from a lush region inland from what the locals call Costa Verde, or Green Coast. The wine itself usually is fizzy from slight carbonation, with all the crackling citrus flavors topped with a convenient screw cap.
Vinho Verde can be red or rosé, but those are made in smaller percentages overall. The whites are blends of the grape alvarinho and two other indigenous varieties. But alvarinho seems to do the heavy lifting as the marque grape. Aspirants are trying to show alvarinho has the versatility of riesling, chardonnay or chenin blanc — ability to age, depth of flavor and complexity. They are staking out territory beyond the under-$10 sippers.
These Alvarinho retain the Vinho Verde region’s official stamp carried by all wines from the Iberian Peninsula to ensure their provenance. But they don’t tout Vinho Verde on the front label, and they typically have a vintage year. Vinho Verde often does not show a vintage because it is meant to be drunk now.
Pennsylvania has a good selection of the simple, inexpensive Vinho Verde but fewer upscale versions.
One of them is Portal da Calçada 2020 Reserva Vinho Verde, which smells of green apple, lime and floral, with citrus and tree fruit character and a tart finish. $20. ♦♦♦♦
Vinho Verde has a subregion, Monção e Melgaço, that is drier and warmer than the rest of the region and produces superior grapes suited for coveted, complex wines.
One of them João Portugal Ramos 2019 Alvarinho Monção e Melgaço, which smells of lemon cream, citrus and herbs; is richly textured; and has a long, mineral finish. In a Burgundy bottle, this wine seems like it is aspiring to be a chardonnay and actually is better than most chardonnay. $20. ♦♦♦♦
The distinctive Soalheiro “Granit” Mineral Selection 2019 Alvarinho Monção e Melgaço, growing in a vineyard full of granite, smells of sea air and minerality and shows tightly woven flavors of unripe melon, lime and intense spice in an angular, nervy wine with a long finish. $20. ♦♦♦♦ 1/2
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find these standouts. Those delightful and inexpensive Vinho Verde — Lago, Broadbent, Arca Nova and Gazella — are still available to get you through the end of summer.
GRADE: Exceptional ♦♦♦♦♦, Above average ♦♦♦♦, Good ♦♦♦, Below average ♦♦, Poor ♦