Vinho Verde entered my wine vernacular last summer, as a less-sweet but equally refreshing alternative to rosé. Beyond what my grade- school Spanish could decipher, I didn’t know much about the slightly sparkling beverage, so during a trip to Portugal, I knew I wanted to investigate further.
Paulo Antunes owns More Than Wine, a wine and food store inside Portugal’s LXFactory, and also works for a wine distributor; he’s beginning to notice the rest of the world take note of Portuguese wines, including Vinho Verde. “One of the things about Portugal is that it’s a small country with completely different landscapes and areas—you’d normally need a bigger country to see all of that,” he says. “So we have mountains with snow, a long coast with lots of beaches and places to surf, and areas that are extremely green.” And each terrain results in different wine: Port wine from the Douro Valley, sparkling wines from Terras de Cister, and Indi blends (indigenous grapes mixed with international ones) from Tejo.
Wines produced in Portugal are almost always cheaper than their counterparts in France or Spain, making them especially appealing— almost half the wine produced in Portugal is now exported. A few big players handle international exports: There are 19,000 small producers working in the Vinho Verde region, and they sell their grapes to a handful of distributors. But Vinho Verde is a favorite among locals as well as the wine-savvy in the US—bottles of Muralhas de Monção are as common as Bud Light cans stateside. The Portuguese especially enjoy it served alongside seafood in summertime.
“You don’t need a reason to drink Vinho Verde,” says Antunes. “It’s not mandatory to have food, it’s something light that you like to drink. The same way you drink beer, you can drink Vinho Verde.”