The Minho has a variety of eating options, from traditional Portuguese taverns to swank eateries dishing out contemporary versions of regional mainstays.
Going Green in Vinho Verde Country
Outside Portugal, the Minho's beloved vinho verde (literally ‘green wine’) sometimes gets a bum rap, but often for good reason – exports tend to sit on shelves far too long. The stuff is made to be drunk ‘green’ – that is, while it is still very young, preferably less than one year old.
While the wine is made from fully ripe rather than still-green grapes, as is sometimes believed, the straw-coloured whites can indeed achieve greenish tints – a visual reminder of the green landscape from which they come. Served well chilled on a hot summer day, its fruity nose, fine bubbles and acidic bite make vinho verde one of the great delights of travelling in northern Portugal.
Vinho verde is grown in a strictly demarcated region of the Minho that occupies the coastal lowlands between the Rio Douro and the Spanish border. There are actually more vines here than in the Douro, but the quintas (estates) are subdivided to such a degree that most growers simply sell their fruit, or their wine, to community adegas (wineries).
Traditionally, the vines are trained high, both to conserve land and to save the grapes from rot, and you can still see great walls of green in the summer months. Like German wines, vinho verde tends to be aromatic, light-bodied and low in alcohol. There are red vinho verdes, though you may find them chalky and more of an acquired taste. White is both the most common and the easiest to appreciate. Alvarinho grapes, grown around Monção, are also used to make a delightful vinho verde.
For more information about the wine, its history and visiting particular regions and vineyards, check out www.vinhoverde.pt. Wine Tourism in Portugal is another useful resource; it offers curated information about wine experiences all over Portugal, which can be booked on its website directly.