More Than Green Grapes

It is very easy to dismiss a region, a grape, or a style. People think Vinho Verde is…well to sound like an earlier me, “It just means green wine, right?” Or it’s assumed Vinho Verde is a fun white wine with a bit of spritz to it. Which it can be. They exist. But, Vinho Verde is not in fact a TYPE of wine. It’s a PLACE of wine. Vinho Verde is a denomination of origin (DO) in Portugal , just to the west of the Douro valley , where Port comes from. The name comes from the fact that the land there is very green. Which should lead logically to another name. Sadly, Greenland stole that marketing thunder. But Vinho Verde is greener. Beyond those spritzy whites, it also makes full-on sparkling, red, rosé, sweet wine, and some distilled wine spirits. Also vinegar. But you probably shouldn’t drink that. Unless…well I actually think I did just say it’s okay to drink tasty balsamic in my sweet wine column so you do you boo. In hopes of finding all the good and colorful wines of the region, I went to investigate, knowing not a lick of Portuguese. But I’m pretty good at Spanish and French. Plus, my first landlord in LA was Brazilian with spotty English and WE managed to communicate in a Spani-Portu-Glish language mish-mash, so I had high hopes that between Please, Thank You, and But Do You Have Cheese, I’d be okay. Spoiler alert: Not once did I have to use the last of those phrases. There was ample cheese and bread at every meal. Portugal may just be my true home. Although I didn’t see any fries there, so maybe not. Then again, their McDonald’s offers a brie burger and while I’d order it sans burger patty, the concept of fast n’ casual brie is indeed a happy meal for my mind. I digress. To be fair, some of the wines I am including here did not have the official “Vinho Verde” seal, but instead are labeled as “Minho” or just a wine of Portugal. There are a variety of reasons for this. To be labeled as “Vinho Verde” requires adhering to the strict guidelines: grape, region, preparation techniques and taste all factor in. The CVRVV (the Vinho Verde Region’s Viticultural Commission) has a big ol’ lab/ tasting room where a team performs tests on and tastes all wines seeking the seal, wrapped in black plastic bags. They then decide what type, if any, of Vinho Verde seal they merit. Meanwhile there are the “Minhos”—wines of Geographical Indication. They come from a demarcated region but there are fewer rules around things like varieties and technique, which allows for more experimentation! Perhaps it seems obvious, but I was bowled over on the difference of personas and resulting wines of the wineries I visited. I have brief profiles of some of my visits below. Follow the asterisks next to each wine to learn more on their makers! Before my tasting notes proper, I am sure you want to know: what does a girl drink in Portuguese showers? Being an open to many a booze, I couldn’t help but nab a minibar bottle of a spirit unfamiliar to me: Licor Beirão . It has a resemblance to anise-y absinthe but that it is a mere 22% abv and it shows a strong minty freshness. I took full advantage of the duty-free shop at the airport so I could continue my shower escapades back in my urban jungle of downtown Los Angeles. Now, let me turn you on to the multi-colored stylings of the most excellent Vinho Verde. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ BUBBLES * 2011 Quinta Carapeços Blanc de Blancs Sec Fantastical Alvarinho showing the grape’s ability to age with grace and ever-increasing beauty. Tropical, toasty, refreshing still and was it dry? Yes. Did it pair well with a homemade cheesecake? Try it and you tell me. *** 2016 Quinta de Soalheiro Natur Pur Terroir Alvarinho Imagine some lemon meringue pie with that slightly sweetened caramelized topping. But, like…it is not sweet. It is full and complex and will fill your soul. ROSÉ 2018 Raza Vinho Verde Rosé Okay, “Raza” is the entry level by Quinta da Raza from this easterly (ergo cooler) area of Vinho Verde. Entry level wine? That is what it was described to me as, but I thought it was absolutely lovely. The blend of Vinhão, Espadeiro, and Padeiro create a bubble gum pink color, and the taste is fruit forward fun--so many strawberries and baking spice. * 2017 Quinta de Carapeços Espadeiro Rosé One of my favorite visits and that’s not just the cheese talking….I don’t think. If anything milk keeps me moral. As does grapefruit, or at least the flavor of it. This tastes of sweet grapefruit that is not sweet. I had to…just drink it. We’d been spitting wine tastes all day but lunch was nigh and this was too good to not actually imbibe. AB Valley Wines Vinho Verde Rosé If the wine hadn’t been fantastic I might have gotten hooked by their playing card motif. AB is kinda neat because the A stands for aromatic and the B stands for oak. Like, oak Barrels, and they make wines that show both those styles. They source grapes from a several sources and seek balance. Whether aromatic or oaky, they are trying to make their stamp and be “new”, which their on point labels are. The rosé is fifty-fifty Loureiro and Espadeiro. Rich with red fruits and flowers and a hint o’ residual sugar that balances the acid perfectly. **** A&D Wines Liv A combo of heavy hitters Touriga Nacional and Vinhão, “Liv” is a deeper coral color and redolent of peaches and cherries and lilacs. It feels honeyed but is also tart. It is perfect. That’s all I can say. Actually many of A&D’s wines were perfect but mostly they were white so you are not seeing them here. Don’t be surprised if I am not seeking more of them to tell you about in the future. Rising star. RED Adega Ponte de Lima Vinhão Vinhão, aka Sousão is a teinturier! It bleeds red juice like my Cardinal’s baseball loving heart. People kept trying to warn me of this grape— Them: It’s so acidic! Me: I have no acid receptors, all the better Them: It is aggressively tannic Me: I like Barolo Finally they trust me, and I rejoice in the wine. Picture the fresh fruit of a quality Lambrusco melded with the guts and punch of a…well at least a Barbaresco. * 2017 Quinta de Carapeços Sousão A wine I speak more of the tannins than the taste. Acidic and tannic but the freshness of fruit brings you back for taste after taste. If you can handle a hard-hitter. Which this is, but it truly feels somehow light at the same time. The hippopotamus ballerina? Berries and cocoa are my flavor notes, but really it is the structure that keeps this hippo dancing. “OTHER” WINES ***** 2018 Quinta de Covela Trellis Labeled as a branco aka a white wine but…it’s an orange wine! Or a “skin contact” wine if you prefer. I still want to call them touché blanc but that hasn’t happened yet. It smells dainty but has that tannic grip you want. Orange blossoms and peaches with an exciting salinity. I am verrrry hit or miss on many orange wines but this one is fire. * 2017 Quinta de Carapeços Late Harvest OMG did ya know there is botrytis in Vinho Verde? This has those super cool marmalade-y vibes running through it. But…they almost make it method ancestrale, bottling just before it has finished fermenting. It is just the tiniest bit spritzed. ** 2001 Quinta do Tamariz Loureiro Aguardente I don’t fall for spirits too often but geeeeez. This hit right. Fair fight I didn’t mind losing. Loureiro is quite the aromatic grape and that comes through even when distilled and aged. And now for those winery profiles! * Quinta de Carapeços The atmosphere/decor at the estate feels somewhere between Victorian, Spanish Catholic and Moorish. They had a healthy interest in wines of all types—our lunchtime debates ran the gamut from how Madeira is made to current politics. Speaking of lunch, the lunch I got included Indian spiced vegetarian food. So they do what they want at Carapeços. And what they want ages handsomely. Yet is so very fresh. I’m not one to pick favorites but this is in my top three places I tasted at. ** Quinta do Tamariz Wine is art at Tamariz, and the Quinta also boasts an impressive spread of plants—they deem themselves a secret garden and rightfully so. They are close to the sea and salty but warm of soul. Amongst the vineyards you’ll find hundreds of different trees bearing myriad fruits. Walking around the quinta is like a scratch and sniff adventure in Technicolor. Tasting the wines? Also extraordinary. *** Quinta de Soalheiro Experimental playing pushing making phenomenal wine. Truly a Wine Playground. Also they make sausages which, if you get into conversation with their winemaker and everyone is feeling cheeky, will make sense. As will the fact that they have the balls to make wines using eggs. Concrete eggs, that is. As well as vessels resembling Georgian qvevri/amphorae hybrids, stainless steel tanks, chestnut barrels, and oak as well! And lone tank of Sauvignon Blanc keeps a lineup of Alvarinho peppy and everyone guessing. Also in my top three. I’m not naming any more of the top three because it is too soul rending. **** A&D Wines Meeting the winemakers, I’d call them intellectual minimalists. Their stated goal is to produce “good, sincere wines, using organic and sustainable techniques” and the estate is a mix of history (200-year-old vines! Cool traditional tile!) and modern (glass tasting room surrounded by a pool!). They also served me the most fantastic bean salad of black-eyed peas, onion, and tomato in olive oil and a lottttt of vinegar that they concocted on the fly, not having been warned of my vegetarianism. A&D feels young and cool but grounded in respect. I respect them and their wines. ***** Quinta de Covela These wines are thought out, and will make you think, too. They make their wines well, and are unique in that je ne sais quoi way, that I believe has to do with being in the Baião sub region of Vinho Verde, and also to do with their biological farming and the fact that “people are the most important element.” And these people know how to respect and show off their land. They play around and keep a passion burning. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Ellen in LalaLand Take One: Nighttime at Wally’s Wine Wine is Virgo, Virgo Wine Old World vs. New World Round Eight: Cabernet Franc! You can also listen to Ellen's podcast with Shaughn Buchholz, The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Caroline Liem Wine Situation Final Five! With Adam Roberts Wine Situation Final Five! With J Ryan Stradal

Quinta de Carapeços

Vinho Verde Rosé Espadeiro 2017

There is a sweet grapefruit acid high richness. As it was with many of the Carapeços wines I kept accidentally (by which I mean on purpose) skipping the spit bucket. Too good. — 23 days ago

Paul, Ron and 13 others liked this
Trixie

Trixie

Pretty color. 🌸
Ellen Clifford

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@Trixie pretty color, pretty damn delicious wine!
Ellen Clifford

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@Paul T- Huntington Beach every so often I let someone else hold the bottle

Quinta do Tamariz

Aguardente Vinica de Vinho Verde Loureiro 2001

I need more of this. Why did I leave it in Portugal? Oh yeah didn’t want to check a bag. I don’t know how to tell you of this but that considering the abv it is nuanced and rich and interesting and I’d sip it (slowly) with appetizer, dinner or dessert. Mayhaps not all three although that would be...interesting. Loved this stuff. — 20 days ago

Severn, Ron and 11 others liked this

A&D

Liv Vinho Verde Baião Rosé

This should be listed as A&D Wines “Liv”. It’s pretty perfect and also pretty. Fruits n flowers and the hint of unsweetened honey. Love it. — 20 days ago

Chris, Paul and 10 others liked this

Quinta de Carapeços

Méthode Traditionnelle Millésime Brut Blanc de Blancs 2011

Fantastically fruity in the tropical vein elevated yet grounded by toasty fun. Liminal and luminous and I want more — a month ago

Paul, Daniel P. and 10 others liked this

Quinta da Raza

Vinho Verde Rose 2018

Friendly fun more than uncomplicated but with some nuance. Good if you walk into a party and need to acclimate yourself and also an solid fun companion later even after a drink or so — a month ago

"Odedi", Matt and 9 others liked this

Quinta de Carapeços

LATE HARVEST Espadeiro 2017

What a unique gem. There is botrytis in Vinho Verde don’tcha know. Also there are rule breakers bottling the stuff with some unfermented sugar (but barely) and so there is jussssst and effervescent kick. Meow. — 20 days ago

Serge, Severn and 16 others liked this

Adega Coop. de Ponte de Lima

Tinto Sub-Região Do Lima Vinho Verde Vinhão

Amazing color, it burbles fuschia and settles into a deep dark ruby and if Lambrusco were made with Piedmont vibes it would be this Portuguese wine. — 20 days ago

Chris, John and 11 others liked this
Sharon B

Sharon B

I’ve had the white Vihno Verde but not the red, I’ll have to look for this!
Ellen Clifford

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@Sharon B I hope you get to try some!

Soalheiro

Nature Pur Terroir Monção e Melgaço Alvarinho 2016

Fantabulously lemon meringue confection but not sweet like the person who gives you the compliment you waited your life to hear and it came out in a natural way in a sophisticated atmosphere so you trust it is true. Soalheiro is truth — a month ago

Aaron, Daniel P. and 10 others liked this

Quinta de Carapeços

Sousão 2017

A challenger. If you cannot reckon fresh fruit with deep tannin and boom pop yah acid you won’t enjoy it. I relish the juxtaposition. — 20 days ago

Paul, Severn and 12 others liked this

Quinta de Covela

Trellis Branco 2018

It is...skin contact white wine from Vinho Verde hi! I still want these “orange” wines to be called touché blanc please help. Smells dainty but grabs your mouth holds it and you are into it. — 20 days ago

Paul, Severn and 9 others liked this