When mercury is rising, drink this wine.


I’ve just been booked to present masterclasses in Sydney and Melbourne in October. An Australian spring always excites me as I leave a chilly, autumnal England for sunny Oz, usually after a disappointing summer. But not this year. As I write the thirty-degree sun is beating down on my office window and the forecast is for more of the same. So, as you can guess, crisp dry whites are flying off the shelves, including an old Portuguese friend that’s now back in favour; a chilled glass of Vinho Verde is again a popular choice on Blighty’s sun-drenched patios.    

Vinho Verde was pooh-poohed for years but is now making a welcome comeback which is not surprising for as well as being a terrific thirst quencher, it’s famously good with barbequed seafood and makes a mean aperitif. With an alcohol level of just 12% by volume, VV’s citrus fruit, mineral overtones and mouth-watering acidity, sometimes lifted with a touch of frizzante, hits the spot when the mercury’s rising. 
This famous wine is so called, one Portuguese winemaker told me, as it’s made to be drunk and enjoyed when it’s young. Another said it was because the wine has a green tinge in the glass. You pays your money and takes your choice.

Vinho Verde comes from the green, rolling granitic-based vineyards in the top north-west corner of Portugal where the influential Atlantic Ocean provides a mild, often rainy climate ideal for crisp white wine production. My anorak Snoothers may be interested to know that the region’s varying microclimates have resulted in the creation of nine sub regions, namely Amarante, Ave, Baião, Basto, Cávado, Lima, Monção e Melgaço, Paiva and Sousa.

‘VV’ is generally made from a blend of local grapes, Loureiro, Pederna and the fashionable Alvarinho. In case you’re wondering, Alvarinho is the same grape as the Spanish Albarino, the variety of Rias Baixas, the increasingly popular blanco that hails from vineyards across the border, just up the road in Galicia. Whilst we’re ‘talking grapes’, Pederna goes under the name of Arinto in other regions of Portugal.

I’m always pleased when a winemaking region sticks to its indigenous varieties as opposed to following the crowd and planting the likes of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Bravo to Vinho Verde and Rias Baixas!

Following fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel vats (to retain the aromas and flavours) the wine is generally rested in the cool cellars for a short time before bottling. It’s worth noting that the winemakers don’t go for oak barrel ageing as they want to produce a clean, fresh, zippy, citrus wine for crisp early drinking.  

Melbourne is famous for its ‘four seasons in one day’ climate but Sydney in October glories in   delightful mid-twenties sunshine. I think I’ll welcome the Sydneysiders with a glass of crisp Vinho Verde before they ‘Become a Wine Expert in 60 minutes’ or start their journey to mastering Champagne and Burgundy. Or should that be Vinhoz Verde? Either way, they’ll love it!

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