Sip through Spring: Coastal Whites of Spain & Portugal

Sip through Spring: Coastal Whites of Spain & Portugal

The sun is out and the weather is getting warmer! The heavy boots can finally hit the back of the closet but that long overdue summer vacation is still just out of reach. As you wait for your summer getaway, spend this spring exploring crisp white wines from the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula; they are vibrant, fresh and offer amazing value for your money!

 

Vera Vihno Verde, Portugal

Let’s start in Portugal’s Vihno Verde region (yes, it’s a region, not a grape variety or the color of the wine) occupying Northwest Portugal which has become the wine geek’s go-to stop for delicious inexpensive wine from grapes varieties rarely seen outside of its borders. For a number of reasons, Portugal never “internationalized’ its wine industry. While you can find Cabernet and Chardonnay, they are rare compared to the many indigenous varieties that have been tended to for centuries. This has left Portugal with an abundance of small, old-vine vineyards that a new generation is beginning to mine for enological gold.


Vinho Verde, aka green wine, refers the youthfulness of the wine and the greenness of the region rather than the color of the liquid. The vast majority of Vinho Verde wines are white and made from six grapes (you’ve never heard of): Alvarinho, Arinto, Azal, Avesso, Loureiro, and Trajadura
A little-known fact about Portuguese winemaking history is that in the ’50s and 60s, the Portuguese government, under pressure from the wine industry, resisted the arrival of Coca-Cola and soft drinks. Vinho Verdes, with their light alcohol and slight carbonation, were the soft drink du jour, the drink people could have for lunch or when meeting with a friend.


A great example of the levity, quality and value of this region is Vera Vinho Verde. Vera’s texture, bright acidity, and medium body make it a versatile pairing. It has very light carbonation and low residual sugar, which allows for a balanced wine and palate. Made from a blend of Arinto, Azal and Loureiro, the result is a clean, lively wine with flavors of lime and ripe pink and yellow grapefruit capturing Portugal’s coastal sensibility. When you dig into Vinho Verde wine you realize this seemingly inexpensive, fizzy wine is something truly special!

 

Nortico Alvarinho, Portugal

Still in Vinho Verde, ask anyone for the best Alvarinho in Portugal and people will point to the northwestern villages of Moncao and Melgaco, just on the border with Spain. Somm Secret—Albariño claims dual citizenship in Spain and Portugal. Under the name Alvarinho, it thrives in Portugal’s northwestern Vinho Verde region, which predictably, borders Spain.


Nortico Alvarinho is a superb example of the grape's hallmark traits: fresh citrus, peach, and tropical aromas paired with clean, juicy fruit and vibrant minerality. On the south bank of the Minho River, farming is as it was centuries ago, with the grapes planted on granite pergolas in plots so small they are called “jardins” (gardens) in Portuguese. This humble yet serious wine showcases the best of northern Portugal’s commitment to artisan production in all things. Unlike Vera Vinho Verde, Nortico has no added CO2, making for a richer, fuller, well-balanced wine that showcases its maritime influence with a kiss of salinity on the finish.

 

Viña Mein, Spain

Just a few kilometers north of Portugal, the landscape of Northwest Spain is unlike anywhere else on the Iberian Peninsula. Where most of the country is hot and arid, the northwest corner is green, lush, and mountainous, with significant rivers throughout. It’s also an area that thrives in growing indigenous grape varieties. Because of its proximity to the Atlantic, the area is most notable for light-bodied white wines with high acidity, like Albariño and Godello.


Vina Mein O Gran Blanco 2020 is a white wine from the D.O. Ribeiro made by the Viña Meín winery, committed to revitalize this once-forgotten, ancestral wine region through bottling the emotion of its landscape and the richness of its native varieties: Treixadura, Godello, Albarino, Loureira, and Torrontes. Vina Mein O Gran Blanco 2020 is a light, bright yellow white wine. Mineral-accented tangerine, melon, pear and jasmine aromas; a hint of smoky minerality gains strength with air. Sharply delineated citrus fruit, pear skin and bitter quinine flavors are complemented by a deeper suggestion of honey. Shows impressive energy and minerally cut on the finish, which hangs on with strong, orchard-fruit-driven persistence.