Vinho Verde is a Portuguese wine from the Minho region in the far north of the country. The name literally means "Green Wine" (red or white), referring to its youthful freshness that leads to a very slight green color on the edges of the wine. The region is characterized by its many small growers, which numbered more than 30,000 as of 2005. Many of these growers train their vines high off the ground, up trees, fences, and even telephone poles so that they can cultivate vegetable crops below the vines that their families may use as a food source. Most countries limit the use of the term Vinho Verde to only those wines that come from the Minho region in Portugal. In Europe, this principle is enshrined in the European Union by Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.
The Vinhos Verdes are light and fresh, and are intended to be drunk within a year. At less than one bar of CO2 pressure, they do not quite qualify as semi-sparkling wines but do have a definite pétillance. The white Vinho Verde is very fresh, due its natural acidity, with fruity and floral aromas that depend on the grape variety. The white wines are lemon- or straw-coloured, around 8.5 to 11% alcohol, and are made from local grape varieties Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso and Azal. Vinho Alvarinho is made from Alvarinho grapes, from a small designated sub-region of Monção. It has more alcohol (11.5 to 14%) and ripe tropical aromas. The reds are deep red and tannic, and are mostly made from Vinhão, Borraçal and Amaral grapes. The rosés are very fresh and fruity, usually made from Espadeiro and Padeiro grapes.
Both the Romans Seneca and Pliny made reference to vines in the area between the rivers Douro and Minho.
There is a record of a winery being donated to the Alpendurada convent in Marco de Canaveses in 870 AD, and the vineyards seem to have expanded over the following centuries, planted by religious orders and encouraged by tax breaks. Wines were mostly produced for domestic consumption, although Vinho Verde may have been exported in the 12th century, to England, Germany, and Flanders. The first definite exports to England are recorded by John Croft as taking place in 1788.
The arrival of maize in the 16th century left a distinctive stamp on viticulture in the region. To maximise production of maize, new regulations banished vines to the field margins, where they would be draped over trees and hedges, forcing the vignerons to pick them from tall ladders. Even today, vines are trained on tall trellises, although now that has more to do with reducing rot caused by the region's high rainfall (1500 mm on average). Another problem is that the rainfall encourages vegetative growth which shades the grapes.
The "Vinho Verde Region" was demarcated by the law of September 18, 1908 and a decree of October 1 of the same year. The regulations controlling production were largely set in 1929, with recognition as a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) in 1984. The DOC is overseen by the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes ("Wine Commission of the Vinho Verde Region").
There are currently nearly 35,000 hectares of Vinho verde vineyards, making up 15% of the total in Portugal. There are 30,599 producers, down from 72,590 in 1981.
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Vinho Verde, en.wikipedia.org
Vinho Verde, cheap and good, www.wineloverspage.com
Wine, Spilled: Vinho Verde, www.eatmedaily.com
Vinho Verde grows up, www.wine-pages.com
Tastings: Vinho Verde, blogs.wsj.com