Discover Portugal’s Fine Young Wines On The Vinho Verde Route
By Julie Dawn Fox
On a balmy summer day, it’s hard to imagine a better wine to pair with an al fresco lunch of freshly caught and grilled fish than a crisp, chilled vinho verde. While the grapes and level of sweetness vary across the region, these slightly effervescent young Portuguese wines share mineral and fruit flavours and low alcohol levels as their key characteristics.
As well as simply savouring your vinho verde with a meal or a snack of petiscos, you could also use it as an excuse to tour this beautiful part of Portugal as you follow the vinho verde wine route.
As you drive around northern Portugal or preferably take a guided tour so you can relax and enjoy the wines, call into local wineries for a tour of their vineyards and wine-making facilities before sampling the fruits of their labour.
By the end of your voyage of discovery, you’ll understand the different grape varietals and nuances in flavour better and no doubt have a favourite.
Wineries on the vinho verde route
The wineries you’ll encounter on the vinho verde route range from traditional to modern. What unites them is the warm welcome you’ll receive from the hosts. At Quinta de Tamariz near Barcelos, the owner takes great pride in showing you around her wine estate which cultivates both Loureiro and Alvarinho grapes, the two main varietals for vinho verde.
Meanwhile, Quinta do Soalheiro near Melgaço has been winning wine awards all over the place. They specialise in the Alvarinho grape, which is particularly suited to the microclimate of this part of northern Portugal. Another Alvarinho winery in this area also breeds Bisaro pigs and is famed for the top quality pork they produce as well as the wines so make sure you sample some while you’re there.
The nearby spa town of Monção is home to MQ Vinhos, where a 17th century wine cellar meets cutting edge techniques and trends in a boutique winery, again with Alvarinho grapes.
In beautiful Ponte de Lima, the aromatic Loureiro grape reigns supreme. One of the local wineries worth visiting here is Quinta do Ameal, although there are others to choose from around this historical riverside town. The new interpretation centre offers tastings from a variety of nearby quintas if you are short on time or simply want to know more.
Another hub for vinho verde wineries is Celorico de Basto where the microclimate leads to some particularly unusual wines made from Azal and Arinto grapes. If you come in March, you’ll also see why this area is dubbed the Camelia Capital.
Other attractions on the vinho verde route
Following the vinho verde route through northern Portugal is not all about wine, of course. It also offers countless opportunities to sample local cuisine in a range of settings from local tascas, cafés and bakeries to gourmet meals in stately homes. Similarly, accommodation runs the gamut of manor and farm houses to design wine hotels.