Along with port and madeira, vinho verde or “green wine” is one of the most uniquely Portuguese wines. “Green wine” refers to the youth and freshness of the wine, which is usually made to be drunk young. Their light sparkle and delicacy distinguishes them from other young wines, which can be harsh and immature.
While the term “green wine” could be thought to be a reference to the wine’s color, this is not the case. The term refers, instead, to the fact that grapes used for these wines are generally harvested while they are under ripe and are unaged.
These wines generally have a characteristic péttilance. The relatively low alcohol, between 8.5 and 11.5%, makes them ideal for quaffing or matching with salty foods. Vinhos Verdes are an excellent accompaniment to seafood, white meats, and Asian cuisine. Like champagne, they make a pleasant aperitif before a meal. Most are best in the first year or two, although single grape varieties are higher in alcohol and often held for a year before release.
The grape varieties used to make Vinho Verde can vary but include Alvarinho, Loureiro, Azal Branco, Branco Lameiro, Canho Branco, Dourada, Esganoso, Pederna, Rabogato, and Trajadura.