Enter Vinho Verde. Portugal’s most popular white wine and also one of the planet’s least expensive. In Portuguese, vinho means wine and verde is green. So: Green wine. Not that the wine is actually green. Most Vinho Verde is the color of pale straw. The verde in Vinho Verde actually refers to the lush, green countryside of northwestern Portugal’s Minho region, where the wine is produced. Also, the “greenness” of Vinho Verde refers to its youth. It’s a wine meant to be drunk young—usually within a year or so. It’s not a wine for the cellar, that’s for sure. In fact, most Vinho Verde doesn’t even have a vintage date on the bottle. Additionally, it’s relatively low in alcohol: Most Vinho Verde weighs in at around 9 percent.
Vinho Verde is an especially nice warm-weather wine, with a festive effervescence. It’s not exactly a sparkling wine but rather a slightly fizzy one that’s sometimes called frizzante or pétillant. There is just a tad of CO2 pressure in the bottle, created by secondary malolactic fermentation—a natural “spritzer,” of sorts. In Vinho Verde, you’ll find any or all of some 25 different grape varietals. But the best ones typically contain Trajadura, Loureiro, and Pedern%uFFFD. Actually, a large portion of Vinho Verde in Portugal is red. But the red wine isn’t exported like the white. It’s electric magenta colored and great with oily fish and sardines.
There’s not a huge selection of Vinho Verde to be found here in the Beehive, but there is some. Aveleda is the world’s largest producer of Vinho Verde and, at $7.75 a bottle (more like $5 to $6 elsewhere), this lively, zesty wine is perfect for picnics. Flavors of melon, white peach and lime mingle with green apples, but this is a surprisingly dry, crisp white wine with no oak. You’ll want to serve it maybe just a tad cooler than most whites and pair it with light seafood and chicken dishes.
Broadbent Vinho Verde ($8.25) is, according to wine writer Jordan MacKay, “the world’s greatest pairing for a Caesar salad.” I’ve yet to try that food-and-wine combo, but it’s on my hit list. Cantaloupe and lime flavors give way to crisp acidity. And, worth noting, Broadbent is the only Vinho Verde exported in refrigerated containers; most inexpensive wines aren’t.
Sips: This weekend, as related to the environmental meaning of “green” wine, the first ever Green Wine Competition takes place in Santa Rosa, Calif. According to competition director Lea Pierce, “This unique, first-of-its-kind competition creates a roadmap to great wine for the green-minded consumer.” The May 5 Green Wine Competition is devoted to recognizing and awarding outstanding wines made from certified biodynamic, certified organic, transitional and natural grapes. “There is tremendous interest in green products and green winemaking is exploding,” says Pierce. “But it’s hard for wine lovers to find these wines—and know which ones are great,” she adds. I’ll list the winners of the First Annual Green Wine Competition in an upcoming Grapevine.