White, red, rosé and orange. If you think that is the definitive list of vinous colours to check off your list, you’re wrong. It’s not new, nor is it sweeping the wine bars of Sydney like its natural-wine counterparts. It’s designed for sunshine – poolside, barbecues, picnics in parks, sun-drenched decks – you get the idea.
Vinho Verde is a style of wine from Portugal which literally translates to “green wine”. It’s not actually green but called that because the fruit is hard to ripen or the grapes are a little under ripe. In fact, there are red and rosé versions of this wine, too, not just white. Vinho Verde is like Sancerre or Burgundy in that it is the name given to wine of the region.
In Australia you are most likely to find the white Vinho Verde. Vinho Verde is grown in the cool and wet north-west of Portugal (hence the difficulty to fully ripen grapes) and has earned its place in the wine world as somewhat of a cult wine, bringing a snap and crackle to the mouth with its bracing acid and spritz. It is also not uncommon for there to be a subtle bead (bubbles) left in these wines to heighten the sensation of freshness.
This isn’t a wine to lay in cellars – it doesn’t gain any greater complexity gathering dust. It’s a spontaneous wine that should be drunk almost immediately, best within a year or two of vintage.
Minho, the northern-Portuguese region where the grapes are grown, is the largest of the country’s wine regions and is made up of small plots of land owned by many. In older plantings it is not unusual for the vines to grow up trees or poles, a method called vinha enforcado. It makes better use of the land, which allows other crops to be planted underneath.
It’s not just the style of this wine that differs from most you will be used to drinking. The grapes are different too. While riesling, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay are commonplace, the wines of this part of the world are made from loureiro, arinto, and trajadura.
Vinho verde will sing with a pan-seared whiting with lemon juice and a fennel and grapefruit salad. It also goes down fine by itself – as long as it’s cold and you’re positioned somewhere in the sunshine.
2012 Quinta do Ameal Loureiro
This wine almost has the body of a fino, such is its leanness, but without the alcohol of sherry. It is wonderfully light in the mouth and is defined by acid, though not at all unpleasant. Refreshing is one word, thirst quenching goes a little further to describe it; green apples, citrus and the finest prickle. This wine is razor sharp and hard to put down.
Available from Delicado.
2013 Muros Antigos Escolha Loureiro
This Vinho Verde follows the same lines as the previous wine. There is something clinical about them both, a steeliness, a matter-of-fact drive from the acid. This delivers a spicier, almost nettle-like flavour backed up with slatey stoniness.
Both wines waste little energy on perfume or sweet fruit character, they are savoury, bordering on briny, and here to quench your thirst and make your lips smack.
Available from The Oak Barrel.