Vinho Verde: Portugal's Largest Wine Region

The first thing you should know about Portugal's Vinho Verde wine region is that the name, which translates to "green wine," doesn't describe the color of the wine produced here.  Instead, the name refers to the tradition of drinking Vinho Verde wines while they are young.  In fact, the worst thing you can do to a Vinho Verde wine is save it for next year.

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Challenging Conditions
Vinho Verde is Portugal's largest wine region.  It is also one of the most challenging places to produce wine in the entire country.  Unlike many Portuguese wine regions, Vinho Verde is not protected by northern or western mountain ranges.  The region's borders start at the Minho River, which separates northern Portugal from Spain, and follow the Atlantic coast south to Oporto.  South of Oporto, the wine region's border follows and then crosses the Douro River.  Several other rivers, including the Ave, Lima and Cávado, crisscross Vinho Verde.  The region is perhaps 50 miles across at its widest point.

Thanks to its coastal Atlantic setting, Vinho Verde's climate is mild and damp.  The area gets about 59 inches of rain per year, much of it in spring and fall.  This makes planting, protecting and harvesting the grapes very challenging, to say the least.  Given the constant threat of rot, fungus and frost, it's a wonder any grapes survive at all.
Over the years, Vinho Verde growers have developed several creative ways to minimize threats to their grapes.  If you visit Vinho Verde, you will see vines trailing along strings and wires, arching overhead, pergola-style, and even climbing up the trunks of trees.  Some growers encourage their grapevines to grow along cross-shaped structures or up vertical poles.  These methods developed for two reasons: first, to save space and leave room for farming beneath the grapevines, and, second, to grow the grapes high enough to allow air to flow around the plants.

Soil and Terrain
Vinho Verde's soils are mainly granite-based and sandy.  There are some areas where schist or slate and clay predominate.  Soils here tend to be high in acidity.  The majority of the slopes in Vinho Verde are gentle, but some vineyards are planted on steep or terraced slopes.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.