The cool, hilly, verdant north west of Portugal is the main source of a unique style of white wine with lowest alcohol and high, fresh acidity: Vinho Verde (vinho verde, ‘green wine’, and means ‘young wine’). Many also have a slight prickle of fizz, once a remnant of the carbon dioxide of fermentation, now often added at bottling time. Vinho Verde may be made from numerous grape varieties, some aromatic, some not, often a selection blended together. It may be dry or medium-dry.
All of these are wines to drink young, ideally from the latest vintage. Vinho Verde and other light, fresh wines are by definition ideal in summer. Whatever time of year, they make refreshing aperitifs, are perfect with salads (balancing the acidity of the dressing), good with seafood and fish, and a foil for fatty foods or dishes. Try them also with Thai or other South East Asian cuisines.
Higher in alcohol and richer in texture, these come from vineyards bathed in copious sun and high summer temperatures. There are soft, rich wines from the Alentejo, intense, minerally whites from the Douro, and full-bodied whites from Trás-os-Montes in the north east. Portugal has the advantage of numerous indigenous grape varieties that are able to keep their acidity in hot climates, and including these in a blend provides balancing freshness for rich white wines.
Full-bodied whites may be further enriched by fermentation in oak, which adds more fullness and texture, and/or maturation in oak, which may give richness and gentle oaky flavours, or sometimes dominant oak flavour. The oak-ageing of top-of-range Reserve whites from Dão and Lisboa (and occasionally elsewhere) rounds them out to full-bodied status. These are all wines for correspondingly bigger food flavours and richer food. Wine with very obviously oaky flavours are harder to match well with food in general, but they can be a good match for smoked foods.