Deconstructing Vinho Verde – A Special Feature

Critical thinking, ongoing education and continued tastings dispel myths about Vinho Verde and instead turn to a focus on sub-regional and varietal diversity

by Michael Godel

This feature was commissioned by Vinho Verde Wines.

Just a little bit more than a month’s whisper and one year ago I returned from an October 2019 visit to a region that is Portugal’s verdant virtuoso, the rainy and routinely cool Minho northwest. The region of Vinho Verde is a magical place marked by cross cutting rivers, sturdy granite outcroppings, endless kilometres of humid Atlantic beaches and the greenest of an interior’s fertile hills. Vinho Verde is like a temperate rain forest, a garden of vinicultural eden and its wines are some of the European continent’s most mineral and refreshing to drink.

Monverde – Wine Experience Hotel

History shows that Vin Verde was mentioned in Roman times, by Seneca and Pliny between 96-51 BC. The name comes from the green colour that carpets the landscape and to the youth of the wine. Vinho Verde is one of Portugal’s largest DOC with in excess of 16,000 hectares, 119,000 parcels, 16,000 grape growers, 600 bottlers and 1400 brands producing more than 85 million litres of each year, of which 86 per cent is white wine. The region also produces smaller amounts of red, rosé and sparkling wine as well as brandy. The Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes was created in 1926 and the demarcated Vinho Verde Region originally defined on September 18, 1908. Vinho Verde extends across the northwest of Portugal, in the area traditionally known as Entre-Douro-e-Minho. It is the largest Portuguese demarcated region and one of the largest in Europe. In terms of a defined geographical area, exterior boundaries are the Atlantic Ocean and the Minho River at its northern frontier, which forms part of Portugal’s border with Spain. Its southern border is formed by the Douro River and the Freita, Arada and Montemuro mountains, as far down the coast as the city of Porto (Oporto) while to the east it’s bordered by the mountains of Peneda, Gerês, Cabreira and Marão. 

The wines are still and will always be distinguished by their high acidity. Flavour profiles depend on the grape varieties used; floral loureiro, steely trajadura, mineral arinto (also known as pedernã), creamy and mineral avesso, and the fine, mineral, subtly fragrant alvarinho. The outlier azal branco presents a different ripening challenge and tends to get blended with more aromatic grapes. Rosé (8 per cent) comes by way of espadeiro and padeiro and vinhão is the lone source for Red (6 per cent) Vinho Verde. The past 12 or so years have seen to growth for exports between two and four per cent and here in Canada we are the number four purchaser behind the US, Germany and France.

Most white Vinho Verde (at least in a commercial sense) can be relied upon to be light, crisp and aromatic, still today with examples possessive of a light prickle of fizz and sometimes with a touch of sweetness. More and more Vinho Verde is found flying solo as a varietal wine and increasingly from single-vineyards as well. This helps to alter long established pre-conceived notions that historically a belief has been held saying Vinho Verde wines are all best consumed within the first year. The initiative begins at a demarcation point in requiem of supposition to lay bare and recalibrate the region’s unjustly exposed and indefensible position. It needs to be communicated that Vinho Verde is a region, not a style and there are many different expressions possible. Freshness and structure both have their place.

RelatedThe rise of varietal Vinho Verde

The rise of varietal Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde is in so many respects no longer simply a matter of white wine blends mired in the young, restless and simple. Sure the light fizz of residual CO2 and straight-lined, neutral citrus in some of the world’s most inexpensive whites deservedly ingratiated itself as the darling of the urban, white-collar working class. The basics were accessible to all and yes the party line repeatedly spoke of freshness. “The wines of Vinho Verde long been known for their vibrant fruit, low alcohol and refreshing qualities.” The appellation suggests that the wines are made from the combination of carefully selected grape varieties, namely alvarinho, avesso, azal, arinto, loureiro, and trajadura. While that much remains the truth something stirs in the northwestern Portuguese territory. It’s something varietal and the veering is not contained to the already considered denominação de origem wine that is soon has recently been recognized with its own DOC appellation. No, the varietal trending in Vinho Verde is not merely just a matter of alvarinho. The time has come for loureiro as well, with others, namely avesso, to follow before too long.

RelatedI will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde to Le Sommelier Fou


The importance of sub-regions

Meteorological and geographical connections begin with high rainfall (1200mm per year, concentrated between October and April) and a severe maritime influence, along with the thread running through that are Vinho Verde’s rivers. Sub-regions are demarcated by the rivers and thus the micro climates are created. Amarante, Ave, Basto, Baião, Cávado, Monção E Melgaço, Sousa, Lima and Paiva; these are the nine sub-regions, each their own entity, defined, delineated and organized by geography, geology, exposition, varietal and terroir. While the generalization of Vinho Verde soils are mainly attributed to granite and low depth, sandy or Franco-sandy, there are more multifarious compositions but all lean towards wines of moderate to especially high acidity, especially when the tenets of poorly phosphorous and of low fertility are involved. Vinho Verde’s salinity and minerality is mainly derived from its granitic soils. In the sub-region of Lima, loureiro is the varietal darling. The most famous of Vinho Verde producers also look at alvarinho for solo measures but it is the northerly sub-region of Monçao e Melgaço along the Minho River where that most known VV variety receives the greatest attention. That is evident none more so than through the diverse verging on obsessive lenses of producers such as Soalheiro and Provam.

The WineAlign crü recently sat down in a safe and socially distanced organized tasting of the following seven examples of Vinho Verde. Each critic found differentiation and nuance, observations which only serve to cement the notion that the region’s wines continue to evolve, diversify and deliver a complex set of individual traits. These are our notes on the producers and their wines.

Peacock in the gardens at Aveleda


Since 1870, Aveleda has been managed and cared for by the same family and has kept the same family surname since that time. Today the Guedes family still owns 100 per cent of the company. The 4th generation includes the six children of Roberto Van-Zeller Guedes: Fernando, Luís, António, Maria Isabel, Maria Helena and Roberto – who today manage the company’s future, together with the following generation: 14 cousins who make up the 5th generation. Located in Penafiel, a municipality in the district of Porto on the road east towards Amarante.

Aveleda Fonte 2019, DOC Vinho Verde ($11.95, LCBO 5322, Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.)
Michael Godel – Though typically possessive of more sugar than some other Aveleda VVs, here in 2019 the plus/minus 15 g/L is hidden by a much improved vintage acidity, citrus tablet with natural flavour, better bitter and sweet lime plus the ripeness of honeydew. Decreased spritz, healthy pulse and clearly riper by vintage with the all important mineral matching the fruit. The timeless one abides.

Quinta das Arcas

Northeast out of Porto and close by is Quinta das Arcas, a family company founded in 1985 by António Esteves Monteiro. The production is mainly obtained from 120 hectares spread across three estates located in the Valongo and Penafiel area. The Quinta das Arcas estate covers 55 hectares  of 20 year old-plus vineyards planted to loureiro, trajadura and arinto. The winemaking team lead by engineer Fernando Machado. Vinification is classically performed, with quick destemming, pressing and low temperature fermentation in stainless steel with an experiment or two in barrel. The company’s Vinho Verde is bottled under the labels Arca Nova and Conde Villar.

Arca Nova 2019, DOC Vinho Verde ($13.95, LCBO 292029, Vinya Wine Agency)
David Lawrason – This is a light crisp, slightly frizzed Vinho Verde with fairly generous aromas of green apple, lime and fresh herbs. Slightly waxy as well. There is a nice sense of cleansing here. Well balanced with good to very good length.

Leite Creme at Petiscas Restaurante in Ponte Lima

Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima

Rita da Silva Araújo is the resident oenologist at the Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima. Founded in 1959 the cooperative produces the most traditional of Vinho Verde wines with a focus on loureiro because of its affinity with the Lima River Valley. Soil is Franco Arenoso, a mixture of sand, silt and clay. This is what Loueirio likes, high fertility in soil. Soil that was once a flood plain or an ocean and this is what’s left behind. The mineral and salt is from deposits left behind after the water was gone.

Adega Ponte De Lima Loureiro Colheita Seleccionada 2019, DOC Vinho Verde, Sub Região Do Lima
Michael GodelVinho Verde’s 1959 founded co-op winery out of the northern Lima River Valley is based in Ponte de Lima, one of the region’s great and historic towns. Made from 100 per cent loureiro and labeled with the sub-region to indicate the affinity of grape and place. The push-pull effect of lemon and CO2 works diligently and effortlessly together with see-saw action to mitigating, equalizing and opposing effect. It’s exactly what planning, execution and result are all about. Refreshing and though higher in alcohol while lower in sugar and fizz, something like for Lima as moscato is to asti.

Valados De Melgaço

At the most northern tip of Vinho Verde lies Monção and Melgaço in the Minho Valley and this is where wine estates concentrate their varietal efforts through the growing and production of alvarinho. With variances created by way of barrel aging, skin and lees contacts, the winemakers here imagine, create and realize a muliplicity of Vinho Verde that both alters and raises the bar for the entire region’s white wines.

Valados De Melgaço Monção E Melgaço Reserva 2019, DOC Vinho Verde
Sara d’Amato – Made from 100% alvarinho, this Reserva gets extra special treatment in the form of fine leese ageing with battonage for 1 month adding volume and presence to the palate. Lightly honeyed and showing a little more oxidation than its counterparts from 2019 yet with more complexity and body than the norm.


As in “a first among equals; the senior or representative member of a group.” Primus Inter Pares is Provam’s is made from the oldest, ungrafted revolutionary vines planted in 1974 that celebrate the pioneering alvarinho for Vinho Regional Minho and Vinho Verde. Provam constitutes 10 wine-growers of the sub-region of Monção e Melgaço and 25 per cent of their grapes come from the vineyards of the partners with the remainder purchased through other growers. Porta Fidalgo is 100 per cent Alvarinho from Monção e Melgaço while Contradição is alvarinho made as in the old times with new technologies. Alvarinho Reserva 25 Anos is made like a red in that it sees 12 days on skins to result in this great floral alvarinho.

Provam Portal Fidalgo Alvarinho 2018, DOC Vinho Verde
David Lawrason – From the northern sub-region of Moncao & Melgaco, home to some of the best alvarinhos of Vinho Verde, this is quite rich yet fresh. The nose is generous with lemon blossom, starfruit, peach and herbs. It is medium bodied, fleshy, lightly spritzed with good acidity and minerality. Some bitterness on the finish. Very good to excellent length.

Looking at the Minho Region from Soalheiro

Quinta Da Lixa

The family owned Quinta Da Lixa company (two brothers and a cousin) ripped out and re-planted their vines in 1999. Quinta Da Lixa’s location in the sub-region of Sousa makes for one of Vinho Verde’s most fertile, fruitful, vigorous and beautiful. That the winery exists hand-in-hand with one of Europe’s most inspiring if understated hotel experiences just makes this property something special and quite frankly, ethereal. Quinta Da Lixa is a champion of no less than five Vinho Verde grape varieties and in fact one of the property’s experiential offerings is a varietal blending session for a bottle of VV you take away as a winemaking souvenir.

Quinta Da Lixa Pouco Comum Alvarinho 2019, Vinho Regional Minho ($14.95, Glencairn Wine Merchants)
Michael Godel – While Quinta Da Lixa is a champion to at least five Vinho Verde grape varieties they choose to show singular love to a unique bottling of varietal alvarinho in their Sousa sub-zone in Vinho Verde. Labeled as a regional wine for Minho and while in 2019 the change has allowed for VV to possess such a DOC, this label remains a VRM. More weight, unction, dry lime cordial and botanical tonic emits from this vintage in a wine more “serious” than many. Not a crunchy alvarinho but more so one to spend some quality time alongside.


Soalheiro investigates more possibilities than almost any other producer in winemaking techniques and styles but also varietal wines out of the box, at least for Melgaço and the Minho lands of Vinho Verde. Not that they eschew traditional Vinho Verde for their experimental tendencies. Indeed both are celebrated. Ancestral and traditional method sparkling wines, classic and mineral and old vines alvarinho, Rosé and white blends and red blends are all a part of the Solaheiro portfolio. In the end it is alvarinho that shines and grabs the estate’s Monção E Melgaço spotlight with labels like Reserva, Terramatter and Nature,

Soalheiro Alvarinho Primeiras Vinhas 2018, Monção E Melgaço A Origem DO Alvarinho
Michael Godel – Made from the oldest, ungrafted revolutionary vines planted in 1974. The vines are in the twain, between the valley and the hills, at 100m give or take. Spent nine months in large cask. It’s a completely unique and singular aromatic alvarinho profile. It’s got all the herbs and tisane, dried orange peel and pinks sea salts. Direct in your face, mouth, mind and heart. Proper and will age beautifully.

Good to go!



This feature was commissioned by Vinho Verde Wines. As a regular feature, WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single winery, agent or region. Our writers independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted on WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in the article. Wineries, wine agents, or regions pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, and its content, is entirely up to WineAlign.