Vinho Verde – Portuguese delight

Vinho Verde wines are unique among the blended white wines of Portugal (and the world) attempting to harmonize delicate aromas and flavours. The name, Vinho Verde, is somehow misleading. Vinho Verde wines are not made of “unripe” grapes as some people say, but are rather “young” wines in contrast to “aged” wines. There are red and white Vinho Verde wines available. The red ones are often a challenge to our culturally determined palates. During my recent trip to Porto, Portugal I had ample opportunity to taste and explore the wines of Northern Portugal. Among them the famous Vinho Verde wines of the Minho wine region.

It is not easy to find a “pure”, varietal wine in the Minho wine region of Portugal. Traditionally Vinho Verde is a blend consisting of several grape varieties (www.vinhoverde.pt) such as Alvarinho, Arinto, Azal, Avesso, Trajadura and Loureiro.

However, with a bit of luck I found some bottles in the café next to the cathedral in Amarante, a small town at the (Rio) Tamega river, about 50 km east of Porto. The wines came from Quinta da Lixa (www.quintadelixa.pt), a well known producer located in the village of Vila da Lixa about 20 minutes northwest of Amarante.

From left to right: 2007 Quinta da Lixa Loureiro, Alvarinho and Trajadura

The tasting notes for the three wines you can find on the websites which I mentioned above. Average production for the three varieties at Quinta da Lixa is bout 7 tons per hectare. The wines are low in alcohol (10 to 11.5%) and show an acidity of about 6.5 g/l.

The Trajadura grape has, in contrast to Alvarinho and Loureiro, a rather plush character and is less acidic than the other two varieties. It is often used to soften the blended Vinho Verde wines.

The Loureiro grape provides the fragrant character of the blended Vinho Verde wines. The single varietal wine of Quinta da Lixa which I tasted was slightly “sparkling” and very aromatic (more aromatic than the other two single varietal wines of Quinta da Lixa). All three wines showed citrus, lime and green apple aromas. They were very fresh and clean, served at the right temperature they are wonderful summer wines. Earlier vintages of Quinta da Lixa Loureiro and Trajadura received 89 and 90 points by some tasters. I loved them as single varietals as well as in the blended incarnation.

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