Characterization of Portuguese wine styles

Vinho Verde

At this point, I will describe the history of three Portuguese wine styles that are unique in the world. I start by Vinho Verde. It's a wine style that unfortunately begins to combine its historical uniqueness to the existing business "trend" in some markets, and that hence loses its true identity.

The region of Vinho Verde - Figure 23 - is one of the oldest regions of Portugal and the World. The first records of its existence as a wine producing region date back to the twelfth century, when the crop was performed by the religious orders. At this point the socio-economic conditions were quite different from those we live in today; However, the importance of international relations that this region had, and the geographical conditions that it presented, for instance an important commercial port, the Viana do Castelo Port, produced the records of the first wine exports from Portugal to Europe. Countries like England, Flanders and Germany were the most popular destinations of these wines.

The region is geographically delimited in 1908; only in 1949 the OIV recognizes the designation of origin Vinho Verde: located north of Portugal and the north-east of Spain, with the natural boundaries of the Minho River to the north and the Mountainous region to the south.

The region of Vinho Verde has a total area of about 35 million hectares, 31,625 producers, and the most planted white grape varieties are Loureiro, Alvarinho, Arinto, Trajadura, Azal-Branco, Avesso and Batoca. In red varieties Vinhão, Borraçal, Amaral, Brancelho, Espadeiro, Rabo de Ovelha, Padeiro de Basto and Pedral.

The soils are of granitic origin, with some exceptions of slate (also called slab or schist). The climate is marked by a wide relative humidity. During the winter and spring there is a strong concentration of rains and the annual rainfall is around 1500 mm. The temperature throughout the year progresses in a gradual manner, although the cold winters are present and summers slightly warm and dry. Thanks to these climatic conditions, the soil of granitic origin has evolved and today has a high fertility, which contributed to the evolution of the vineyard cultivation in this region.

The Vinho Verde region (Figure No. 23) is divided into nine sub-regions (a good example of recovering of its Terroir): Amarante, Ave, Baião, Basto, Cávado, Lima, Monção and Melgaço, Paiva and Sousa, making a total of 100,000 vine plots. This enables us to understand why this is a wine so distinctive, where one can identify the vines and grape varieties that originate to each of the bottles produced. In these small plots where the vine is cultivated still remains the tradition of small agricultural production, where the vines are planted on the property boundaries, by such marking them.

The cultivation of vines in Minho has unique characteristics, which I would highlight as differentiator the vineyard driving system, where the vines feet come flaunting several meters high and have a leaf surface quite unusual. The planting of the same vineyards is also made in "border strips" on the edge of small land fractions of each farmer, and where subsistence farming is practised. The change of the vineyard driving type has been made in order to make this region more productive, leading to an improvement of its wines.

In terms of wine tasting, the most present features in Vinho Verde wines are their good vivacity in the mouth, with a strong expression of natural acidity and minerality. At the olfactory level, the bouquet ranges from the more mature summer fruits or the cooler, according to the Terroir.

This region is managed by the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes (CVRVV, Commission of the Vinho Verde Region Wine growing), whose function is its development, managing the heritage grape varieties and protecting the region's professional and commercial interest.

As a note, I should mention that this is the style of wine that presents itself to me with most feasibility in commercial terms, given its already extensive experience in international markets. In my opinion, there are markets that should include these wines in their references, given its low degree of alcohol and aromatic profile, widely searched for by some trends markets. The appreciation of this region would seem like a commercial challenge. It is important to enhance to the consumer the intrinsic value of the region, with many centuries of history, and present the products that best meet the needs of their markets. The trend towards industrialization of this style of wine can be advantageous in terms of sales volume; however, I believe it is wrong to bet on the amount in favour of the expression of the different Terroir's that we presented here.
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