Alvarinho: albariño’s Portuguese sibling

Most wine drinkers have heard of albariño from northwestern Spain’s Rias Baixas region. The region wraps over the top of Portugal, with a border at the Minho River. On the south side of the river, the grape goes by its Portuguese name, alvarinho.

This northern part of Portugal is where Vinho Verde wine is produced. Vinho Verde, which is usually white, is typically a blend of several grapes, including alvarinho. But more single-variety Vinho Verde has emerged in recent years, starting with wines made from alvarinho. And the best alvarinho comes from the northernmost part of the Vinho Verde zone, along the Minho, in an area called Monção e Melgaço.

If you’re interested in exploring alvarinho from Monção e Melgaço, a good place to start is the 2019 Anselmo Mendes “Muros Antigos” Alvarinho ($18), which is dramatically lemony (Meyer lemon, to be precise) with some weight, a saline note and a very persistent finish. The 2017 Quinta do Louridal “Poema” Alvarinho Reserva ($25) has even more pronounced salinity, along with its fresh, lemony fruit. The label says “sobre lias,” which means the wine was aged on the lees (in this case, for 24 months – hence the older vintage date).

While we’re on the subject of single-variety Vinho Verde, I also recommend the 2019 Quinto do Ameal Loureiro ($18), a wine with zingy lemon and green apple and a lot of energy. This loureiro is from just south of Monção e Melgaço, in the Lima subregion, where loureiro thrives.