Wine comes in 3 colours: red, white and rosé. Well, actually, no! It comes in 4! In Portugal, there is also green wine! Vinho Verde, the wine from Portugal’s northernmost region, the Minho, translates as green wine. And, to make things more complicated, although virtually all the green wine that is exported is white, in the region, you can buy red green wine as well!
Enough of this! Let’s talk Vinho Verde and we’ll concentrate on the white version. The Minho region is very different from the rest of Portugal; it hasn’t really got a typical wine growing climate at all. It’s fairly cool and relatively wet – in fact, its annual rainfall is 2 – 3 times higher than in many wine regions. So it isn’t surprising that, historically, it produced rather thin, acidic and under-ripe wines. These were nearly all consumed locally and within a year of production – the “green” in the name actually refers to this habit of drinking the wines while they were still very young, rather than their colour.
But things are changing. How? By better vineyard management and by concentrating on higher quality grapes such as Alvarinho (the same as Spain’s excellent and ultra-fashionable Alboriño) and Loureiro. And it was a wine made from this latter variety that we enjoyed recently.
Anselmo Mendes’ Muros Antigos is a delicious, fragrant, perfumed white with an incredible depth of flavour and great complexity and length. My wife and I had a glass each one evening and then put the cork back in and left it. By the following day, it had developed even more flavours and aromas. I can hardly believe it is only £8.75 (Wine Society) – quite remarkable at the price and the wine bargain of the year!
I’m not surprised at the quality of this wine – we visited Anselmo Mendes when we were in Portugal last year and quickly realised that here was a top class winemaker. We were treated to one of the most diverse and comprehensive tastings I can remember. Yet, we were faced with so many different wines, all the result of his great passion for experimentation, that, in the end, it was difficult to agree on what worked brilliantly and what didn’t quite work.
With just the one wine enjoyed in the peace and quiet of our own home, the quality shone through. But Mendes isn’t the only person making high class Vinho Verde. You should definitely look out for green wines on the shelves!