Whether you’ve tried dozens or never even sampled one, “Vinho Verde” is not a phrase that immediately gets your hopes up for a stellar wine experience. But the wine we’re featuring this week from Quinta da Raza is different, loaded with ripe stone fruit and peach blossom aromas, a big dose of orange citrus juice flavor, and a lightly prickly burst of CO2 that lifts the flavors and reinforces the salty stone finish. You’ll love sipping on this while dinner comes together tonight. And if seafood or salads are on the menu, you’ll keep on loving it until the dishes are done.
Young, Not Green
Vinho Verde can be a little confusing. First while the literal translation is “green wine,” the term really means “young wine” – specifically wine that’s bottled 3-4 months after the grapes are picked. Back in the old days, the unfiltered wine went into bottle a bit cloudy and then went through a secondary (“malolactic” is the technical term) fermentation in bottle, generating a bit of trapped gas. The result was fun and enlivening, if not very pretty – one reason why traditional Vinho Verde bottles are brown or very dark green so you couldn’t see the murky juice.
More importantly, Vinho Verde is also a place – specifically the very old vineyards located in Portugal between the rivers Douro and Minho that were praised in Roman times by both Pliny and Seneca the Younger. As is usual in Portugal, there are a bewildering variety of vines growing here including Loureiro (the main white grapes) but also Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Batoca, Branco-Escola, Cainho de Moreira, Cascal, Douradinha, Esganinho, Esganoso de Castelo de Paiva, Esganoso de Lima, Fernão Pires, Lameiro, Rabigato, S. Mamede and Semilão.
But the best grapes (in our opinion, anyway) are Alvarinho (called Albarino in Spain) and Trajadura (Treixadura). Alvarinho gives ripe fruit, zesty acidity and pretty perfume. Trajadura adds body, richness, and a dash of deliciously salty minerality. A tiny bit of CO2 added at bottling (to mimic the old malolactic fermentation lift) kicks the fun up to lightly frothy heights.
We could go on, but really the best way to grasp how delicious, fun, and flat-out cheap (at least at our prices) this is will be to come by the store this week and try it yourself. It won’t make the sun come out and temperatures soar. It will make you mind the damp gloom a little bit less.