Could Vinho Verde be the next Kiwi Sauv Blanc?

Could Vinho Verde be the next Kiwi Sauv Blanc?

Could vinho verde be the next big thing??

For a number of years now, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has dominated the white wine market. We can totally see why, it’s dry, full of fruit flavours, easy to drink and stands up to our guilty food pleasures like fish and chips or big bold currys. However – are we at saturation point?

Wines, like everything else, follows trends in the market. In the 80s and 90s, big, full, oaky Australian Chardonnays were all the rage. People even named their children Chardonnay! However with a big rise comes a big fall, and the bubble of oaky Aussie Chardys burst, giving rise to the ABC crowd (Anything But Chardonnay – though more on that at a later date…) Could Marlborough Sauv be headed the same way? And if so, what’s next!?

Of course, it’s impossible to predict. However, we’d put (a small bit of) money on Portugal’s controversial Vinho Verde (pronounced Veen-yo Vaird if you’re going full blown Portuguese or Veen-yo Ver-day if not…) Most people remember or know Vinho Verde as an overly tart, sometimes off dry, slightly off-putting white wine, but that’s no longer the case!! Portugal have really upped their game, and with more and more distribution companies taking a punt on Portugal, their best wines are really being showcased and are doing extremely well. But can it take over Sauv Blanc?

In terms of production, yes. Portugal currently has 51,000 acres of vinho verde vineyards, whereas Marlborough Sauv is sitting at around 59, 000 acres. Interestingly, Marlborough sits on the same latitude as the Douro Valley does in portugal (though obviously in the southern hemisphere, so their sun exposure is very similar, though obviously the terroir and the differing winds play a huge factor in the way they grow their grapes.)

So how should they taste??

It should be zippy and often slightly spritzy with flavors of limeade, lemonade, gooseberry, apple blossom and yellow grapefruit. Great examples have a slightly clingy, chalky sensation on the palate and notes of honeycomb, ruby red grapefruit and lemon. The wines of Vinho Verde have long been known for their vibrant fruit, low alcohol and refreshing qualities — a combination that makes them one of the most versatile partners with food. Vinho Verde is an ideal wine pairing for salads, seafood and Asian cuisine, and can be served alone or as an aperitif.

The primary fruit flavors of Sauvignon Blanc are lime, green apple, passion fruit and white peach. Depending on how ripe the grapes are when the wine is made, the flavor will range from zesty lime to flowery peach. What makes Sauvignon Blanc unique from other white wines are its other herbaceous flavors like bell pepper, jalapeño, gooseberry and grass. These flavors come from aromatic compounds called pyrazines and are the secret to Sauvignon Blanc’s taste.


Like Marlborough Sauv, most of Vinho Verde should be drunk as young as possible, although higher-end Minho wines are worthy of 10+ years aging. The thing is, Vinho Verde does not mean green wine as in green grapes, it actually means green wine as in ripe wine to be drunk ASAP. 

What to Look For:

Less than £10 will get you a great Vinho Verde. Wines with higher levels of Alvarinho, Loureiro and Azal tend to have less phenolic bitterness. This could come from the lack of oak aging. Sauvignon Blanc Also does not benefit hugely from oak aging. Some innovators like Greywacke are oak-aging their Sauv for 6 months in French oak, then leaving them on lees and allowing malolactic fermentation. This all gives this particular wine qualities which are more likened to chardonnay rather than sauvignon blanc.

So we are looking at two different animals here. But maybe two different big cats. Different, with a lot of the same qualities. The real difference here is price. And in a post Brexit Britain that is really the only thing that’s keeping these two cats in the zoo. Most experts expect that the new world will drop in price, however currently a good Sauvignon Blanc will be nearly double or sometimes triple the price of a Vinho Verde of the same price. Obviously you can get lesser quality Sauvs for under £10, but those are mainly entry levels. Comparably, a £10 vinho verde is going to be of a better quality than a £10 Sauvignon Blanc. 

What experts did not consider was COVID-19. The other dreaded C-word (after Christmas in the wine trade – get your head out of the gutter) Covid hit New Zealand right at the beginning of harvest 2020, and as we know now NZ took the whole thing rather seriously. This, plus some seriously devastating natural disasters made the 2020 harvest onbe of the worst in recent history. Any Sauvvy B lovers will have to start looking elsewhere for good quality wines, as the ones that do make it across will either be snapped up by the big players in the wine industry, or will be very expensive for what they are to make up for lost cost. Unfortunately, 2020 was set to be a great harvest, so if you do have a little glass of Sauvignon Blanc, raise a glass to the wine trade over there and wish them well for next year. 

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