Porto and the North of Portugal: One Region, Two Wines
The Vinho Verde Wine Region
The Vinho Verde Specified Region (VVSR) is one of the oldest in Portugal. The present VVRS covers the whole of North-west Portugal, at an altitude less than 700 metres, in the region traditionally known as “Entre-Douro-e-Minho” (between the Douro and the Minho rivers), and occupies a total area of about 34,000 hectares of vineyards, corresponding to around 15% of the Portuguese wine-growing area.
Its geographical boundaries are naturally defined:
- In the North, by the River Minho, this forms part of the frontier with Spain;
- In the South, the River Douro and the Freita, Arada and Montemuro hill ranges;
- In the East, the Peneda, Gerês, Cabreira and Marão ranges;
- In the West, the Atlantic Ocean.
The mountainous areas to the East and South form the natural separation between the Atlantic Entre-Douro-e-Minho and the more characteristically Mediterranean regions further inland.
Issues of culture, microclimate, type of wine, grape variety proportions and method of training vines means the division of the Vinho Verde Specified Region into nine sub-regions: Amarante, Ave, Baião, Basto, Cávado,Lima,Monção, Paiva e Sousa.
CLIMATE AND ELEVATION
The regional climate is strongly influenced by the orographic characteristics and by the layout of the river network. The most striking aspect is the annual rainfall, which is marked by quite high annual totals (average 1200 mm) and by an irregular pattern during the year, concentrated in winter and spring. As for the temperature, it works in symmetry with the rainfall, with the highest temperatures occurring in periods of low rainfall and lower temperatures during periods of higher precipitation.
The average annual temperature and the maximum and minimum averages could not be considered excessive, and this provides a very amenable climate.
With regard to the elevation, the region has a quite irregular topography, being marked by a dense network of valleys associated with the river network, a feature that becomes stronger from the coast to the interior.
GEOLOGY AND SOILS
From a geological point of view, the soils are mostly of granite origin, and there are also two narrow bands of schist that cross from the Southeast to the Northwest, with their origin south of the river Douro, one in the Siluric Period, in which carboniferous and slate formations appear, the other of schist from the Archaic Period.
As a general rule, the soil is characterised by low depth and heterogeneity, which requires the choice of soils that have better viticultural suitability, such as soils of average depth with good internal drainage.
Vinho Verde is unique worldwide, a mixture of aromas and flavors that turn into one of the most refreshing natural drinks! Light, aromatic and of average alcohol content, it is noted for its freshness and special qualities, and is very appetising, especially in the hot season.
Choosing from the vast range of wines available is an artform, from the traditional Vinho Verde made from a careful blend of selected grape varieties, to Vinho Verde made from a single grape variety.
The flagrant originality of Vinho Verde results, on the one hand, from the characteristics of the soil, climate and socio-economic factors and, on the other, from the peculiarities of the regional grape varieties and methods of cultivating the vines.
Vinho Verde possesses different analytical profiles that distinguish the wines by grape variety, sub-region, and a designation of quality (escolha, grande escolha, superior, colheita selecionada and reserve).
White Vinho Verde has a citrine or straw colour, fruity or floral aromas, and is delicate and subtle. It is smooth and very fresh in the mouth.
Rosé Vinho Verde has a slight or deep rose colour, a youthful aroma, and in some cases a hint of red fruits. The flavor is fresh and intense.
Red Vinho Verde is full-bodied and has an intense colour and a rosy or bright red froth.
GASTRONOMY AND VINHO VERDE
Vinho Verde, with its average alcoholic content, is characterized by the fruity aromas and vivacious flavor that make it light and refreshing.
White Vinho Verde is a wine with a unique aromatic flavor, and ideal to accompany salads, shellfish, fish, white meat and oriental cuisine. The perfect marriage for a casserole of clams, mussels gratin, dressed crab, salad of fresh mushroom with courgette and prawn, smoked salmon, turbot, grilled bream, monkfish steaks, baked bass, roast octopus, breast of duck, wild hare and pheasant, among many other dishes. Cold platters and desserts are best with a sweeter white Vinho Verde. There is a recent trend towards the White Vinho Verde as an aperitif, since it is light and fresh, and has quite low alcohol content and a balanced acidity.
The reds are full-bodied, great as an accompaniment for the regional Minho cuisine: Lamprey rice, salt cod with “migas”, kid roasted on a bay skewer, lamb steaks, “Cozido à Portuguesa” (cooked meat, potatoes and vegetables), “Papas de Sarrabulho” (pork gruel), “Rojões à Moda do Minho” (fried pork cubes), “Tripe à la Porto” and others. Sparkling Vinho Verde is also recommended to accompany these dishes.
Rosé Vinho Verde, with its intense fruity aromas, is particularly good as an aperitif or to go with desserts.
Sparkling Vinho Verde is perfect as an accompaniment for starters and all kinds of canapés, fish and meat dishes, shellfish and oriental food.
Vinho Verde brandies complete a meal, with coffee and digestives, and to accompany dried fruits and nuts, chocolate and, for those who appreciate it, a good cigar!
VINHO VERDE WINE ROUTE (please check the page on "Tourism")
Mrs. Sofia Lobo
Rua da Restauração, 318
Tel: 351 226 077 341
Fax: 351 226 077 320
For more information about the Vinho Verde please visit http://www.vinhoverde.pt/
Or watch the movie at http://www.vinhoverde.pt/imprensa/filmes/filme_EN.wmv
Douro and Port Wine Region
The Douro Region stretches from Barqueiros, a village 100 km east of Porto, to the border with Spain. It covers approximately 250,000 hectares, of which 46,000 are under vine.
The Port vineyards are planted along the steep, spectacular hills overlooking the River Douro and its tributaries. Generations of men and women have toiled tirelessly to build terraces into the rock face (an essential element for supporting the vines on these slopes) and thus creating an impressive landscape of unequalled beauty where stifling hot, dry summers are followed by harsh, cold winters.
It is the region’s characteristic poor soil and uncompromising Mediterranean-like climate which produces one of the most sought-after wines in the world, Port.
Port has the distinction of having the oldest regulated Denomination of any wine. The area was demarcated in 1756 by the Prime Minister of Portugal, the Marquis of Pombal. There are three sub-regions: “Baixo Corgo” in the west, “Cima Corgo” in the center (the heart of the demarcated region) and “Upper Douro” to the east. The region is regulated by the Port and Douro Wines Institute (IVDP), an inter-professional council.
The boundaries of the Douro region correspond with an outcrop of pre-Cambrian schist. Hemmed in by granite, this schist runs either side of the River Douro.
The River Corgo flows into the Douro near where the town of Regua splits the main production area of DOC Porto into two: Baixo Corgo, the area around the town is the westernmost area for Port production and also the coolest and wettest; Cima Corgo, upstream from Regua is the heartland of top-quality Port production, centerd around the town of Pinhao. The Upper Douro is the most recent addition to the Region and reaches up to the Spanish frontier. Port grapes tend to occupy the best sites on the schist soils, especially at higher altitudes where the climate is a little cooler.
TYPES OF WINE/GRAPES
The wines of the Douro Valley are not only fortified. The red and white still wines are balanced and beautifully flavored.
Around 80 different varieties are permitted for both still Douro wines and Port. Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca are amongst those widely used in red wines, whereas Gouveio, Malvasia Fina and Viosinho are some of the more favoured white grapes.
The sweet fortified wine known as Port was born in the early part of the 18th century, when a measure of brandy was added to the region’s dry and basic wines to stabilize them during shipment abroad.
There are four families of Port:
Produced from white grapes and aged in either stainless steel or wood, this wine offers a world of choices, with colours that range from pale white to gold and intense flavors that go from the very dry to the very rich and sweet.
As it name suggests, this Port Wine is a deep ruby red. Full-bodied, rich and powerful, this wine is aged in large stainless steel or oak vats so that it retains its original characteristics that remind one of fresh red fruits such as cherries and strawberries. Vintage Port stands out from all Ruby Ports. This extraordinary wine is selected during the finest vintage years for its quality and potential to age slowly in bottle over many years.
Certain Port Wines are especially chosen for ageing in oak casks. As this wine is gradually exposed to oxygen, there is a concentration of flavors and a maturation of colours that go from red to gold, and the aromas develop to create complex and subtle flavors of nuts, vanilla, coffee and caramel. These may be blends of different wines (Tawny, Reserve Tawny and Tawny with an indication of age) or produced from the wine of a single harvest (Colheita).
Rosé is a pink-coloured Port obtained by the light maceration of red grapes, with no oxidation during storage. These are wines to be drunk young and are highly aromatic with notes of cherry, raspberry and strawberry. They are soft and pleasant on the palate. They are best drunk chilled or with ice, and can also be served in several cocktails.
GASTRONOMY AND DOURO VALLEY WINES
Before a Meal
Toasted almonds, smoked salmon, prunes or dates, served as an aperitif to a meal, are perfect when accompanied by a chilled White Port. Dry White Port is the key ingredient for a “Portonic”, a fantastic long drink made with Port, tonic water, ice and a slice of lemon. Rosé Ports are also best drunk chilled or with ice or as a cocktail.
If you choose to serve a paté, a 10 years old Tawny is recommended. All these Ports, including Tawny Reserve, may be served chilled or with an ice cube when you get together with friends in the summer.
During a Meal
As we enjoy magnificent dishes, we can accompany them with a variety of types of Port. White Port continues to be an excellent choice for a light meal based on salads or grilled fatty fish such as salmon. This is also an excellent wine to drink with rich, creamy soups. Should the appetizers include strong cheeses or patés or if dried fruits and walnuts are part of the dish, you should choose a chilled 10 years old Tawny. Roast meats and steak with rich sauces or well-seasoned with pepper and spices go beautifully with an LBV as it balances the intensity of the flavors.
Towards the end of a meal
The dessert is the ideal moment for savouring a Port Wine that will harmonise in countless ways with fruits, sweets and cheeses. Cakes and chocolate mousse go extremely well with a young and fruity LBV or Vintage. The intensely rich and sweet traditional Portuguese desserts (based on egg yolks and sugar) are highlighted by the delicate flavor of a 10 or 20 years old Tawny. If you have chosen a fruit salad, caramel custard or almond tart, desserts with less intense flavors, vanilla ice cream or nuts, a younger wine such as a Tawny Reserve or 10 years old Tawny that has been chilled to accompany the temperature of the dessert is recommended. If on the other hand, you prefer a cheesecake or a mild, creamy cheese, you should select a Ruby Reserve or an LBV. Strong and hard cheeses are best when accompanied by older Tawnies such as a 20 year old.
After the meal
Proof that Port Wine can be drunk at all times during a meal is when you light your cigar and delight in an old Vintage. These wines are also superb when drunk on their own, after first having been carefully decanted.
With your coffee, enjoy a 20 years old Tawny or an even older Port.
On their own, 30 year old and more than 40 year old blended Ports offer you intense experiences when they are served slightly cooled in large glasses in which you can get the full benefit of their bouquet. Colheita Ports, although also very enjoyable when drunk on their own, are excellent with the desserts recommended for Tawny Port, depending on their age.
Wines to be drunk when young
Young “Douro” wines will be appreciated in all their splendour if drunk during the first few years after they have been made. Among these wines are reds that are more fitting to simple meat dishes, salt cod, pasta or pizza. They should be served at between 13º and 15ºC.
Wines to be kept for ageing
When drunk young, these wines are the ideal accompaniment for red meat dishes, such as a sirloin steak or highly-spiced roast meat, which makes them perfect for some traditional Portuguese dishes such as veal cutlets or roast kid.
Aged, they are perfect companions to game or venison. These wines should be served cool, between 16º and 18ºC.
Wines to be drunk when young
They are a good accompaniment to fish dishes and salads and may also be appreciated as an aperitif. These wines should be chilled, between 8º and 10ºC.
Wines to be kept for ageing
These are recommended with fatty fish dishes such as salmon or salt cod, but they are equally good with chicken or rabbit dishes that are accompanied by mild sauces. The majority bear the word “Reserve” or “Grand Reserve” designation on the label and should be served less chilled, at around 12ºC. These wines may be kept several years before drinking.
These wines are ideal as an aperitif in the summer and they are perfect companions for oriental food such as dishes from Japan (Sushi), India or Southeast Asia (Thai and Vietnamese food).
IVDP – Marketing and Communication
Rua Ferreira Borges, 27
4050 Porto – Portugal
Tel: +351 222071600
Fax: +351 222071699