Drinking Green with Vinho Verde

It was a brutally hot Friday afternoon in August.  I had put off mowing the lawn for too long and decided that it had to be done that day.  So, on my way home from work I stopped at the liquor store, because I can’t mow the lawn without having a chilled beer at the ready.  The problem was, I’ve been trying to lose some weight, and if I had a six-pack of beer (or a case of beer, which is more often the situation) in the house, I’d be obligated to drink every bottle.

So, what other options did I have?  I needed something that would satisfy the near heatstroke I was about to self-induce, something that we could both enjoy, and something that wouldn’t add too much to the old beer belly.  So I decided on a crisp dry white wine – and nothing is crisper or drier than a well-chilled Vinho Verde.

Green Wine?

Literally translating as “green wine,” this light and dry style of wine is native to the Vinho Verde region of northwestern Portugal.  The word “green” here does not refer to the color, but instead to the youth of the wine, which is made from grapes that are picked young (before fully ripened) and aged for only a few months before bottling.  Low in sugar, and with a higher acid content, Vinho Verdes are light on the tongue – tart, with little-to-no aftertaste.

Many new wine drinkers might be wary of Vinho Verdes, hesitant to venture into a new style of wine.  All wines are white, red or pink, so what is “green” wine? Don’t overthink it. A Vinho Verde can be a white, a red or a rosé, although the vast majority are white.  The signatures of this style are dry, crisp and light. If you like Sauvignon Blanc, a dry Riesling, or Albariño (a.k.a. Alvarinho), you’ll probably like a white Vinho Verde, especially when outside on a warm day.  If you like bubbles, some – but not all – Vinho Verdes have a mild fizz, although not nearly as bubbly as a true sparkling wine.  

A Light Wine that’s Light on the Wallet

Surprisingly inexpensive (often for less than $15.00 a bottle), Vinho Verdes are simply refreshing.  Great with mild cheeses, fresh fruit, salads, grilled chicken, cold sandwiches or crab legs, this is the perfect picnic or back yard wine.  Our first experience with this style was ten years ago with Green from Cardinal Point, which – being from Virginia – is not a true Vinho Verde, but still wonderful.  But our personal favorite is from Aveleda, a non-fizz Vinho Verde with a slight green apple tartness, and a $10 bargain that can be found in most liquor stores.

If you’re new to wines and have a taste for dry (light and not sweet) whites, give a Vinho Verde a try.  And if you’re a more experienced wine drinker, step outside of the France/Italy/California box and give Portugal a chance.  As with any wine, you can’t take anyone’s word for it but your own. And at around $10.00 a bottle, it’s absolutely a risk worth taking.

Main Takeaways:

  • Vinho Verde is the perfectly refreshing answer to a hot day, and a wonderful warm-weather alternative to beer and other more common white wines.
  • Pair a chilled Vinho Verde with cheese or fruit for a simple picnic, with crab legs or fish tacos, or with chicken fresh off the grille.
  • Inexpensive and available in a wide variety of styles – including white, red, rosé, and with a light fizz – Vinho Verdes are easy to explore.