If you have never heard of “green wine,” then let’s start with this one. This 2018 Caiu a Noite Vinho Verde is a typical verde from Northern Portugal.
Yes, from Portugal.
And with that point, I want to share a little story with you before we get to the taste of the Caiu a Noite about something that happened to me when wine shopping recently. And I’m sharing it to explain more about what Vinho Verde is — since Portugal and all things Portuguese have a special place in my heart. (France and Scotland have long been historical allies. But so have France and Portugal — since early, early times. The cultures have intertwined for centuries.)
We had a huge new ritzy ditzy glitzy wine store open up in my locale. And so shortly after it opened, I took a little field trip to browse through the rows of wine. And this is part of what happened.
An eager, smiling young woman came over to offer help. I didn’t really want help because my whole point was to leisurely browse, but she seemed intent so I asked if they carried Portuguese wines.
“No, I don’t think so,” she said, “but if you tell me what you’re looking for I’m sure I can help you.”
I said Vinho Verde.
She quickly corrected me: “Oh, that’s a Spanish wine,” as she briskly walked me to the section that said SPAIN. The she added, “It’s not Portuguese, it’s Spanish.”
I didn’t protest. I simply followed her.
She stood there beaming as I perused the shelves.
I found about at least a dozen Portuguese Vinho Verdes (putting all of them in my cart) and about twice as many Spanish Vinho Verdes.
Then as gently as I could, as she determinedly walked me to the checkout, I asked if she knew how the word “wine” is spelled in Spanish.
She was happy to spell v-i-n-o for me. Then I asked if she could spell it in Portuguese and she said she had no idea.
“It’s spelled v-i-n-h-o in Portuguese,” I said. “Just like the name of this wine.”
“Weird,” she said.
There is a long history of Vinho Verde. And it predates any countries named either Spain or Portugal. It is an Iberian wine that is very, very old. But its origins are from the Minho Province of what is now Portugal — in the most northern part of Portugal right on the border with Spain.
A major wine region in Portugal, between the Minho River and the Douro River, has produced both Vinho Verde wines and Port wines since ancient times. (In fact, it is from the Port wine of the area that Port-u-gal got it’s name.)
There are ancient Roman references to a verdant wine region called Galicia that was comprised of a large part of what is now Portugal and a chunk of what is now southwestern Spain including the Spanish state that still bears the name Galicia.
In fact, Roman historians Seneca the Younger and Piny the Elder both made reference to the special vines in the area between the rivers Douro and Minho. This is the ancestral home of Vinho Verde.
Spanish markets opened up in the United States many years before Portuguese trade did, so it’s not surprising that many vendors have a larger supply of wines from Spain than from Portugal. And with Spain’s more diverse climate, the wines of Spain are more varied than those of Portugal.
But Vinho Verde in Portugal is made traditionally not only in White, but also in Red and in Rosé. And although the word verde does mean green, the meaning of the word in Portuguese is far richer and more nuanced than simply a color. It also means “new,” “young,” “fresh.”
So no matter what color a Vinho Verde wine is — white, red, or rosé — it is a young wine that is intended to be consumed quickly after bottling. You never want to age a verde more than two years. And because of the youth, you can expect some level of sparkle. Although these are not sparkling wines and not even semi-sparkling wines, you often find youthful effervescence in a verde. That’s part of its charm.
Now, the 2018 Caiu Noite Vinho Verde.
The nez is crisp, freshly cut apple with a hint of flint. The bouche is green apple followed by a quick rush of ripe pear and wildflowers with a flint and citrus finish.
It’s bright, clean, and clear. It’s an excellent aperitif — especially in hot weather. And it pairs wonderfully with fish, Asian dishes such as sushi or sashimi, salads, cold shrimp dishes, anything cooked in lemon or a lemon sauce.
We usually find the 2018 Caiu Noite Vinho Verde for around $8 a bottle, but since we are getting close to the 2020 wine harvest, you can expect any stock still on wine merchant’s shelves be be discounted over the next couple of months (at least the 2018 bottling). And as long as you drink it by Christmas, it should still be at it’s peak. Even at this price point, it is a great buy.
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