History of Vinho Verde region

The Minho province is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in Portugal. The area is located in the country’s north and is considered the starting point of vine farming. Arriving at the place and seeing the beautiful landscapes, the valleys, the contours of the rivers, and the small and charming villages is like taking a trip back in time. Apart from many breathtaking natural beauties in the province, the area has Demarcated Region of Vinhos Verdes (RDVV).

History of Vinho Verde region

Vinhas do Vinho verde (Região da Beira) – Image source: commons.wikimedia

Traditionally, the Vinho Verde region is known as “Entre-Douro-e-Minho” because of the rivers that define its geographic limits to the south and north. The region is located in northwest Portugal, bordering the Spanish province of Galicia to the north, the mountains from Geres and Marão to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Lafões region to the south. The region is characterized by small vine growers that reached around 19,000 in 2014.

The RDVV is divided into nine sub-regions, each indicated on the wine bottle. Overall, the RDVV has seven thousand square kilometers of area and around 34 thousand hectares of planted vineyards, corresponding to approximately 15% of the Portuguese wine-growing area.

Today, most of the RDVV areas are modern viticulture, and their grapes reach the ideal ripening point for wine production. The brand “Vinho Verde” was recognized and registered in 1973, preventing its use elsewhere. Vinho Verde can only be produced in the RDVV and respects the Vinho Verde Denomination of Origin precepts. For wines produced there without the DO specifications, it is known as the Geographical Indication Minho.

The literal meaning of ‘Vinho Verde’ in Portuguese is ‘Green Whine’. Of course, the color of Vinho Verde wine is not green. So why this name? Several arguments are produced for the unique name.

However, the most popular two versions are: Vinho Verde takes its name due to the region’s grapes color, even when ripe, having a high acidity content, producing liquids whose characteristics give them the appearance of coming from grapes harvested before the correct maturation. The other explanation of the name says that “Vinho Verde” means “wine from a green region.” That is, the name derives from the beautiful local landscape.

The complete explanation of the name was well summarized by Luís Lopes, editor of Revista de Vinhos, from Portugal: “Everything indicates that, effectively, the name Vinho Verde, which dates back to the 19th century, is due precisely to the fact that the climate and the old local viticulture techniques (exuberant vines, raised at heights and profusely watered by water from the gardens) condition the maturation of the grapes. The Portuguese wine industry of 1946 divided the national wines, precisely, between ‘green’ and ‘mature.'”

The Vinho Verde has unique characteristics related to the microclimate, the type of soil, the peculiarities of the regional varieties, and the techniques of cultivation of the vines in the region. Generally, it is light, aromatic, and refreshing, with an alcohol content of less than 11.5%. The most striking note of the wine is the so-called “needles” – except whites produced with the Alvarinho variety, which are more structured and with higher alcohol, around 13%.

In addition to still wines, RDVV producers have been experimenting with producing sparkling wines based on Vinho Verde. The natural acidity and the relatively low alcohol content were considered potential qualities to obtain good sparkling wines in the region- which in the demarcated region can only be produced by the Classic method.

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The river network strongly influences the climate of the RDVV. The most striking aspect is the annual rainfall regime in the region, which has high annual averages – around an incredible 1,200 mm in some sub-regions, concentrated in winter and spring. Temperatures accompany the rains: warmer seasons are drier, and colder seasons are rainier.

The averages of minimum and maximum temperatures vary little, characterizing a mild climate suitable for vine growing. The soils are primarily of granitic origin, generally characterized by low depth and homogeneity, forcing local producers to choose deeper soils and with good drainage, more suitable for wine-growing activities.

This Day in Wine History

  • 1st century AD: The oldest known historical references about the existence of wine in what is now the demarcated region of Vinho Verde come from two Romans
  • 870 AD: A record exists of a winery being donated to the Alpendurada convent in Marco de Canaveses, indicating that vineyards existed in the region at this time
  • 1908: The “Vinho Verde Region” was demarcated by the law of September 18, 1908, and a decree of October 1 of the same year
  • 1926: The regulations controlling production were largely set in 1926
  • 1946: The Portuguese wine industry divided the national wines between ‘green’ and ‘mature,’ with Vinho Verde being classified as a ‘green’ wine
  • 1976: The old Minho province was dissolved, and the modern-day Vinho Verde region was established
  • 1984: Vinho Verde was recognized as a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) 
  • 21st century: Despite its long history, the Vinho Verde region is still relatively under the radar, making it an up-and-coming destination for wine tourism

Want to read more? Try these books!

The wines of Portugal (The Classic Wine Library) Vinho Verde - A Demarcated Region: A Denomination of Origin

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , , , , By Published On: November 2, 2022Last Updated: February 27, 2024

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