The word ‘green’ has many meanings. It’s a colour, of course, and, these days, is often used as a shortcut to describe environmental issues or, with a capital G, the political parties that are trying to advance those issues.
And, in Portugual, there’s a Green Wine (the English translation of Vinho Verde) but the meaning is different again; the green is used here in the sense of being young or immature. Traditionally, Vinho Verde was consumed within a year of the harvest and so was always ‘green’ (with, in general, little character apart from mouth-tinglingly high acidity).
Despite this, for almost a century, Vinho Verde has also been a DOC, the Portuguese equivalent of France’s Appellation Contrôlée, with designated geographic boundaries (roughly stretching from the Minho River in the north to just beyond the Douro in the south) and a list of allowable grape varieties, all native to the region of production.
Historically, most Vinho Verde was red and you will still find some like that if you visit the region. But, today, overwhelmingly, Vinho Verde is white and the quality has improved enormously with many examples able to develop well in bottle for a year or 2 at least. Look, especially, for wines made with Alvarinho (the local name for the currently very fashionable and attractive variety, Albariño, but, in Portugal, made in a rather leaner and crisper style than over the border in Spain), also Treixadura (sometimes spelt Trajadura) and Loureiro.
It was a bottle of the latter from producer Quinta de Gomariz that I opened recently (Grape and Grind, £14.50). Rather fuller and richer than many Vinho Verdes despite still being only 11.5% alcohol, but retaining a typical floral character alongside a fresh, citrussy flavour and a delightful dry, honeyed finish. A wine to enjoy on its own or to accompany many fish or chicken dishes.
And this particular Vinho Verde takes the ‘green’ theme even further – it is imported by Xisto Wines who, amazingly, bring all their stock over to the UK from Portugal in sailing boats, priding themselves in using no fossil fuels. A Green Wine, indeed!