I know the rules. I was raised in the South where it’s written into the legal codes — no white apparel or wines after Labor Day.
However, this refreshing, dry wine is an exception, and I haven’t given up on summer yet. I’m declaring that we should enjoy warm days and evenings until early November, so there’s plenty of time to try this wine.
Vinho Verde, which translates as “green wine,” gets its name not from its color, but because it’s meant to be drunk young, within a year of its vintage. Winemakers give each bottle a little spritz of carbon dioxide to keep the wine fresh and lightly fizzy. Vinho Verde once was naturally carbonated through fermentation, but in the 1980s, winemakers changed the process in an effort to appeal to the export market.
This pale yellow wine comes from the lush, green Vinho Verde district, which runs along the Minho River, in northwestern Portugal, bordering Spain’s Rias Baixas region, known for its excellent light, white Albarino wines.
As with many European wines, the making of Vinho Verde dates back to the Romans and to early monasteries, and for centuries, the wine was consumed domestically. In 1908, Vinho Verde was recognized as a wine region. It was named an official district in 1984.
White wine from the region began to hit the U.S. market in the 1990s, and became immensely popular. I started drinking it about 15 years ago when I discovered Casal Garcia, which I still like. Now, there are a number of good Vinho Verde choices on the market that are reasonably priced and widely available, including Arca Nova, my current favorite.
The Vinho Verde region gets a lot of rain, about 120 inches a year, and the soil is fertile. The area is highly cultivated, and about 90 percent of the 20,000 vineyards in the district occupy less than 10 acres, according to Jancis Robinson in The Oxford Companion to Wine.
Growers train their grape vines on high trellises so they grow up off the ground to allow ocean breezes to blow through, dry out the vines and help prevent rot and mildew. Traditionally, the vines were grown on trees; now trellises are hiked up to reach maximum sun, and other crops often are planted beneath the vines.
Although all Vinho Verde is slightly effervescent, light, fresh and citrusy, not all Vinho Verde is white wine. White and rosé Vinho Verde is broadly available in the U.S. market, but you may have to go Portugal for the red, and if you find it, there’s a chance it will be too sour to drink.
That’s not to say that all red Vinho Verde is bad. I have never had Vinho Verde Tinto, but Robinson says that the red can be quite good if it goes through secondary fermentation, which the whites and rosés don’t.
Esteves Monteiro started Arca Nova in 1985, initially bottling wine produced by others, but soon growing and producing his own wines. The Monteiro family still runs the company, which makes a broad line of award-winning wines and is one of Portugal’s largest and best producers.
Arca Nova’s white Vinho Verde in the tall green bottle is a crisp, low-alcohol (10.5 percent) wine, which the tasting notes describe as having floral and citrus aromas and mild lemon and green apple flavors.
The Monteiros use a blend of three grapes to make Arca Nova Vinho Verde: Laureiro, a light-skinned, high-acid grape that adds aromas of orange blossom and flavors of laurel berries, makes up 50 percent of the mix, followed by Arinto with lemon and grapefruit flavors at 40 percent and 10 percent Trajadura, adding tastes of peach and apricot, the tasting notes say. The result is a lovely, light wine that’s great to drink alone and goes well with appetizers and seafood.
Arca Nova Vinho Verde is widely available through out New England. I find it regularly on sale for $8.99, and most recently at $7.99.
At those prices, it’s worth buying a case, which will last until winter when it’s time to switch to the reds.
Suggestions of wines in the $10 range are always appreciated. Warren Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.