Vinho Verde is a Portuguese wine from the Minho region in the far north of the country. The name translates to 'green wine' (though it can be red or white), - it doesn't describe the colour of the wine produced - the name refers to the tradition of drinking Vinho Verde wines while they are young.
Vinho Verde is Portugal's largest wine region. It is also one of the most challenging places to produce wine in the entire country. The region's borders start at the Minho River, which separates northern Portugal from Spain, and follows the coast south to Oporto, then across following the Douro River.
There are currently nearly 35,000 hectares of Vinho Verde vineyards, making up 15% of the total in Portugal, with approx 30,600 producers, down from 72,590 in 1981.
Many of these growers traditionally train their vines high off the ground, up trees, fences, pergolas, along cross-shaped structures or up vertical poles and even telephone poles so that they can cultivate vegetable crops below the vines. Today this is continued to reducing rot caused by the region's high rainfall (1500mm on average).
Vinho Verde wines are now largely exported, and are the most exported Portuguese wines after Port Wine. The Vinho Verde Region was demarcated in 1908; regulations controlling production were largely set in 1929, with recognition as a Denominacao de Origem Controlada (DOC) in 1984. The Vinho Verde DOC is divided into nine sub-regions: Amarante, Ave, Baiao, Basto, Cavado, Lima, Moncao & Melgaco, Paiva and Sousa. Soils are mostly granitic with some slate, but almost all vineyards are planted on granite. This is the opposite situation to Port wines and the reds of the Douro, where granite is shunned in favour of slate.
From the 52 permitted grape varieties for Vinho Verde a few have emerged as strong front-runners in quality terms. Alvarinho (the same grape as Spain's Albarino) is certainly one. The majority of the slopes in Vinho Verde are gentle, but some vineyards are planted on steep or terraced slopes.