Successful Experimenting with Aged Vinho Verde

It wasn't long ago when the white wines from Vinho Verde DOC in Portugal were virtually unknown outside of the Iberian peninsula.  Thanks to low prices and a flavor profile everyone can enjoy, sales have increased significantly in the US over the last decade. Partly due to their high acidity and low alcohol, Wine Folly describes white wine from Vinho Verde as "the endless summer wine... the boozy dry limeade you've always wished for on a hot day." While Vinho Verde does produce rosé and red wines, most of us are familiar with the refreshing, quaffable style described above. Indeed, the region's name translates to "young" or "green" wine. But is there another, more serious side to white wines from this region? Most recommend drinking these wines as young as possible, but what happens when you age high quality Vinho Verde? 

Craig Perman, from Perman's Wine Selections in Chicago, told me as I was leaving the store with a few of these bottles several years ago that it would be interesting to experiment by aging them for a few years. I decided to take him up on the offer and let the 2011 Quinta da Aveleda sit undisturbed for 2-3 years until I popped it open a month ago. The results were interesting and delicious. To be clear, most Vinho Verde is best young, especially bottles in the $5-10 range. But I'd say high quality white Vinho Verde, especially these bottles from Quinta de Aveleda, have some great aging potential, especially if you can leave them be for 3-5 years, if not longer. To be clear, the varietals used in each wine differed slightly but it still gives us some insight into how these age. Check out the notes below for the evidence!

2013 Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde
Vinho Verde DOC
80% Loureiro, 20% Alvarinho
11.5% Alcohol
$11

Highly Recommended

Pale lemon/green in the glass. Incredible bouquet of vibrant lime and lime zest, wet stones, and grapefruit. On the palate, mouthwatering and medium bodied with similar flavors as the nose overflowing on the palate. Well-balanced and refreshing with a slight pithiness that adds some grip as it transitions into a long finish. The lime and grapefruit are the dominant flavors but the minerality is off the hook here, and while it doesn't hit the level of a Sancerre, it's super delicious nonetheless. The finish is persistently long and never seems to end. This is incredible for $11 and a serious summer wine, one to drink on the patio or pair with some ambitious petiscos, grilled white fish, or any Iberian cuisine. For better or worse, the winery changed from traditional cork to screwcap at some point between 2011 and 2013, making the prospects for aging less friendly. Either way, there is plenty of reason why Wine Enthusiast ranked this #1 in their Top 100 Best Buys of 2014.

2011 Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde
Vinho Verde DOC
Alvarinho, Loureiro, and Trajadura
11.5% Alcohol
$12

Highly Recommended

While the blend of white grapes is different in the 2011 and 2013, the flavor profile is very similar. Similar lemon color as the 2013 but without the green tints and a surprising golden hue for only being 4+ years in the bottle. Lime and grapefruit are not as bright on the nose as the 2013 but they are still very much there. I couldn't help but notice a distinct grassy component and a hint of honey on the nose as well, which if I was tasting blind, would have made me think it was a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand or South Africa. The minerality is less pronounced as well, but the age has given this an intriguing pedigree by rounding out the ages and melding the flavors. It's definitely a different wine, but I think it's improved with age and could be a real gem 3-4 more years out. I'll be on the lookout for more high quality white vinho verde sealed with a cork!