Before start writing about Vinho Verde I want to give a massive THANK YOU to Caterina Lousan to select me and invite me to this amazing trip and an even special thank you to Barbara Roseira and Daria Tchubukova Ferreira of the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes (CVRVV) to let me taste more than 60 wines of various producers and drive me to 6 wineries in different sub-regions letting me understand the variety and the potential of this wine region answering me to the hundreds questions I have personally asked. Thank you again!!!
So, let's start to say that Vinho Verde is a vast area of production in the region of Minho in north west of Portugal and has 21000 ha of vineyards. Yes, 21k ha, almost the 10% of the total Portuguese planting (224k ha) splits between 18000 grape growers of which 2000 Quintas (wineries) producing 86% of the total white wine, 8% rosé and only 6% of red Vinho Verde.
Being so vast the climate also differentiate, and it having 1200 mm of rainfall (very wet) on the top north to the 400mm (slightly too dry) of annual rainfall in the south of the appellation having both a moderate maritime climate influenced by the Atlantic ocean with an annual average temperature of 14.8 degrees Celsius. Slightly lower on north and slightly higher in south of the region.
Regarding the soil generally speaking is more granitic in north next to the Spanish border and more shist (also called slate) in south adjacent to Douro valley, mixed with sand and clay.
The white grape variety allowed are 6 and in order of importance we have Alvarinho, Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Loureiro and Trajadura which are all found in Galicia in Spain except Arinto (also called Pederná) which is a proper Portuguese varietal with a nice and refreshing acidic backbone. For red and rosé, the most common is the Vinhao, called also Suosao in Douro valley, that lack of a fruity profile but has a spicy herbal meaty character with a distinctive super deep dark ruby colour due its red flash. Vinhao is also commonly blended with Borracal and along Alvarelhao and Amaral are the 4 red grape variety allowed in the region while for the rosé the 2 most common are Espadeiro and Pedeiro as they have both paler colour, lighter body and more fuity carachter than the other for red varietals.
However, the focus is the white wine and due the different terroir also the various grapes adapt better with a specific terroir as the Alvarinho seems to fit better on wet and granitic soils while the Avesso shows better structure and fruitiness in drier shisty soils.
For this reason the CVRVV has delimited 9 sub-region as shown in the map attached and in this way the style of the wine may be better recognised as in the top north, next to the national border adjacent to Contado de Tea subregion of Rias Baixas in Galicia, Spain, where the Albarino is widely planted, in the sibling Cru village Malcao and Melgaco guess what? Alvarinho is the most widely planted as fits greatly with this kind of terroir. The wines here have beautiful acidity and in best examples along the fresh apple also show tropical fruits as pineapple and fresh mango beside a subtle flinty character.
The Loureiro dominate the planting in the central part of the Vinho Verde area but amongst the most distinctive wines come from the Baiao subregion where the Avesso fits better in the Douro-like terroir.
Avesso here show more structure and personality able to produce a great level of acidity, distinctive for any Vinho Verde, but with intense granny smith and golden apple, ripe lemon floral and with more viscosity and body on the palate.
To make the consumer even more confuse Vinho Verde has generally 3 styles.
1- The slightly fizzy, crisply fresh, sometimes off dry, with maximum 11.5% ABV, made by blend of grapes which are pretty simple and cheap.
This style is not allowed to have written on the label any of the 9 sub-regions, the grape variety and other quality mentioning words as Escolha, Colheita Selecionada or Reserva
2- The classic blend or sometimes single variety, still, dry, with minimum 11.5% ABV perhaps from a specific sub-region and
3- The single varietal, still, dry, with minimum 11.5% ABV, perhaps from a specific sub-region and specific soil.
About the slightly fizzy style we must say that the wine in the past use to be fermented and without stabilization, bottled and sold it as soon as possible and during the spring after the harvest while the wine was already in the bottle the malo-lactic fermentation use to start due the warmer temperature creating slightly fizzy wines and make the Vinho Verde be famous for all around the world due its unicity. Nowadays this style of wine is made adding 0.6 BAR pressure of CO2 during the bottling but still remain cheap yet very cheerful
The classic blend is a huge world as it can be simple and generic in flavour to more perfumed, however with a slightly higher price tag than the old school still very common fizzy style.
The single varietal, especially from a specific soil are by my humble opinion the best Vinho Verde produced. They are usually the top tier of the winery so are generally reduced in yield per ha using green harvesting, showing more concentration, length and complexity and the specific soil play the rule of giving the typicity of the place.
Both the last 2 styles metioned above (still, dry, with minimum 11.5% ABV perhaps from a specific sub-region) are allowed to have written on the label any of the 9 sub-regions, the grape variety (if single variety) and other quality mentioning words as Escolha, Colheita Selecionada or Reserva.
The style number 3 (as same as style 2 but single varietal on specific soil) has to specify which soil the single varietal grows. Usually Alvarinho in Granit or Avesso on Shist (often not even mentioned as in A&D Wines Quinta de Santa Teresa Avesso)
So, as the Albarino and Alvarinho are the same grape variety, but just change the name crossing the Rio Minho that naturally split the counties, what's the difference of the Albarino from Spain and Alvarinho from Portugal? Can they be the same right? not quite! Most of the Albarino from Rias Baixas in Spain do the malo-lactic fermentation (MLF) to soften the acids and increase creamy texture and cheese aroma while the Alvarinho from Vinho Verde void the MLF adding sulphur dioxide retaining more malic acids. The result is shown in the wine under the flavours of green apple and cutting acidity
The trellis system used to be similar to the Spanish cousins, the Pergola, but now, while in Spain is still kept, in Portugal the vertical shoot pruning (VSP) is the most used of which is not the guyot but the single cordon. The single cordon allows the high yielding as the pergola, whenever the producer wants, and often they want, but is easier to work with tractors.
Said all this info about Vinho Verde I would like also to make public the ranking of most of the wine tasted in this trip and here are below, thank you for reading.
56 wines rated:
Excellent 95 to 100 Pts.: none
Outstanding 85 to 94 Pts.: none
Very Good 75 to 84 Pts.: 18
Good 65 to 74 Pts.: 27
Acceptable 55 to 64 Pts.: 8
Faulty <55: 2
56th- Quinta Soalheiro Sauvignon Blanc & Alvarinho 2018: 40Pts
55th- Quinta Soalheiro Alvarone 2018 barrel sample: 45Pts
54th: Quinta da Lixa Reserva Alvarinho Minho 2015: 55 Pts
53rd- Quinta de Pacos Casa de Pacos Loureiro Arinto 2018: 55Pts
52nd- Quinta Soalheiro Nature pur Terroir 2018: 55Pts
51st- Muralhas de Moncao Alvarinho Extra Bruto: 55Pts
50th- Adega Ponte de Lima Vinhao: 57Pts
49th- Solar da Pena Arinto 2018: 57Pts
48th: Quinta de Pacos Superior Familia Blend 2018: 58Pts:
47th: Quinta de Pacos Morgado do Perigao 2018: 61Pts
46th: Quinta Aveleda Loureiro Alvarinho: 63Pts
45th: A&D Wines Monologo Chardonnay P706 2019 (will be released in Oct. 2020): 65Pts will improve
44th: A&D Wines Monologo Malvasia Fina P70 2019 (will be released in Oct. 2020): 65Pts will improve
43rd: Quinta de Pacos Loureiro Vinha Velhas Reserva 2018: 65Pts
42nd: Quinta de Pacos Casa do Capitao-Mor Alvarinho 2018: 67Pts
41st: Quinta de Pacos Arinto Reserva 2018: 67Pts
40th: A&D Wines Monologo Arinto P24 2019 (will be released in Oct. 2020): 67 Pts will improve
39th: A&D Wines LIV rosé: 67Pts
38th: Quinta des Arcas Arca Nova 2019 (will be released in Oct. 2020): 67 Pts will improve
37th: A&D Wines Casa de Arrabalde 2018: 68 Pts
36th: Quinta dos Encados Vinho Verde 2018: 68 Pts
35th: Quinta de Pacos Alvarinho Maceracao Reserva Moncao & Malgaco 2018: 69 Pts
34th: Quinta des Arcas Arca Nova Alvarinho Colheita Selecionada 2018: 69Pts
33rd: Quinta des Arcas Alvarinho Reserva 2017: 70 Pts
32nd: Quinta das Arcas Arca Nova Alvarinho 2015: 70 Pts
31st: Quinta Covela Avesso Edicao National Vinho Verde 2018: 70 Pts
30th: Quinta Aveleda Loureiro Vinho Verde 2018: 70 Pts
29th: Quinta Covela Eca de Queiroz Tormes 2018: 70 Pts
28th: Quinta Avelada Casal Garcia 2018: 71Pts
27th: Quinta Avelada Alvarinho 2018: 71 Pts
26th: A&D Wines Monologo Avesso 2018: 71 Pts
25th: Quinta de Pacos Alvarinho Sobra Lias Vinho Verde 2016: 71 Pts
24th: Quinta des Arcas Arca Nova Rose 2018: 72 Pts
23rd: Quinta Covela Arinto Edicao National Vinho Verde 2018: 72 Pts
22nd: Quinta Covela Escolha Branco Avesso Chardonnay Minho 2016: 73 Pts
21st: Quinta Covela Reserva Red Minho 2013: 73 Pts
20th: Quinta des Arcas Alvarinho 2016: 74 Pts
19th A&D Wines Singular 2018: 74 Pts
18th: Quinta Soalheiro Primeras Vinhas Alvarinho 2018: 76 Pts
17th: Quinta Covela Touriga Nacional Rosé Minho 2018: 76 Pts
16th: M.R. de Olivera Encostas des Castelos Alvarinho Moncao & Malgaco 2018: 77 Pts
15th: Quinta Soalheiro Alvarinho Reserva Moncao & Malgaco 2017: 77 Pts
14th: Quinta des Arcas Alvarinho 2014: 78Pts
13th: Quinta Soelheiro Alvarinho 2019: 80 Pts
12th: Quinta Soalheiro Alvarinho Espumante Bruto Nature 2016: 80 Pts
11th: Quinta des Arcas Vinhao Vinho Verde 2014: 80 Pts
10th: Quinta de Pacos Alvarinho Reserva Moncao & Malgaco 2015: 80 Pts
9th: Quinta Covela Avesso Reserva Vinho Verde 2018: 81 Pts
8th: Quinta Soalheiro Alvarinho Espumante Bruto 2018: 81 Pts
7th: Quinta Avelada Alvarinho Solos de Granito 2018 (will be released in Oct. 2020): 82 Pts
6th: Quinta Soalheiro Alvarinho 2008: 82 Pts
5th: A&D Wines Quinta dos Espinhosos Avesso, Chardonnay 2009: 83 Pts
4th: Quinta Covela Reseva Branco Avesso, Arinto, Chardonnay Minho 2015: 83 Pts
3rd: Quinta Soalheiro Alvarinho Granit Moncao & Malgaco 2018: 83Pts
2nd A&D Wines Quinta de Santa Teresa Avesso 2018: 84 Pts
1st: Quinta Avelada Solos de Xisto Alvarinho 2018 (will be released in Oct. 2020): 84 Pts