Vinho Verde

With summer beginning today, terrific summer wine you may not have heard about, and a wine even your friends who don’t think they like wine may enjoy.

Vinho verde—green wine—is a refreshing hot-day, around-the-pool pour and a great bargain.

In spite of name, the wine is not green. Rather, it is made from grapes picked green, before they fully ripen. It is a style, not a grape: 25 different grape varieties are allowed in the Vinho Verde region of northern Portugal.

Since sugar is not fully developed in green grapes, vinho verde wines are low alcohol. They are crisp, fresh, citrusy, sometimes peachy, and usually slightly effervescent, thanks to a shot of carbon dioxide at bottling. They are not sparkling or frizzante, but tingle your tongue—what French call pètillant.

Quaff young: vinho verde wines don’t improve with age. Some are serious, most are great hot day sippers best enjoyed well chilled. Most are white, but there are vinho verde reds and rosés.

Traditionally, venho verde grape vines are trellised because of the region’s heavy rainfall and threat of grey rot. Many are grown on 15-foot tall pergolas that require ladders for workers to reach the fruit. Tall trellising allows a second food crop on the ground, taking fullest advantage of typically small plots in the Vinho Verde region. As the wine has scored internationally and demand increased, however, there is replanting to configurations permitting mechanical harvesting.

Because they are light with good acidity, vinho verdes pair well with fish, although their best pairing is a hot weekend afternoon with time on your hands.


• Fâmega Vinho Verde. Delicate, delicious, crisp; green apple, citrus, melon; good acidity; excellent aperatif. Steal deal value. $6.50

• Casal Garcia Vinho Verde. Floral nose; tangy citrus, crisp acidity; no oak or tannins; very refreshing. $7

• Alianca Vinho Verde. Delicate nose; very clean, fresh, crisp; lemon, citrus; 9% alcohol–drink ice cold all afternoon on hot summer day. $8

• Broadbent Vinho Verde 2011. Tart, fresh, light, crisp; green apple, peach, lemon; very refreshing. Bubbles galore for a vinho verde. $11