Vinho Verde is the biggest DOC of Portugal, up in the cool, rainy, verdant north-west. The vines grow in fertile, granite soils along rivers that flow from the mountains of the east to burst out into the ocean between golden surfing beaches.
The outer boundaries of both the “Vinho Regional” Minho and DOC Vinho Verde are the same, stretching from the River Minho in the north, which forms Portugal’s border with Spain, as far down the coast as the city of Porto (Oporto), but inland extending a further 30km south of the river Douro.
Cool, wet weather always makes ripening more difficult, but the climatic problems were long compounded in the region by the tradition of training vines along pergolas on the edges of fields, and sometimes up trees, to gain space and free up the center of fields for other crops.
There are many smallholdings, and grapes are still often trained in this way, but modern vineyards, and certainly the vineyards of major estates, are now low-trained on wires, giving better exposure to the limited sun, and better ripening.