If you make a habit of drinking outdoors in the summer, you\u2019re probably familiar with the white wines of Vinho Verde. These slender bottles generally clock in around $15, and stay in the neighborhood of 10\u201312% alcohol by volume (abv).\n\nVinho Verde usually has a bit of spritz. Carbon dioxide (CO2) sometimes occurs naturally, but more often, it\u2019s added during bottling. The style also brings ample acidity, making it one of the more refreshing wine options. While value and refreshment are excellent reasons to drink Vinho Verde, there\u2019s more to this Portuguese region than even the savviest wine lover may know.\n\n\nWhat is Vinho Verde?\nA common misconception is that the \u201cverde\u201d part of the name (meaning \u201cgreen\u201d and pronounced vaird) refers to the color of the wine or the idea that the wine should be drank young. In fact, the white wines are generally a pale straw color, and some can age beautifully. Reds and ros\u00e9s are also produced. But the name for Vinho Verde comes from the region\u2019s environment, which is lush and green.\n\nIn the northwest corner of Portugal, Vinho Verde is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, mountain ranges to the east and south, and the Minho River to the north. The Douro River runs through the southern tip. These conditions keep the region cool and breezy. The weather and granite soils account for the bracing freshness of the wines.\n\nThe region includes nine subappellations that grow seven major white grape varieties along with three prominent reds likely to be found in U.S. bottlings, most of which are native to Portugal. While most Vinho Verde wines are blends, a growing number of producers are experimenting with varietal offerings.\n\n\nThe white grapes of Vinho Verde\nAlvarinho\nCalled Albari\u00f1o in Spain, this grape is associated commonly with the northernmost subappellation of Mon\u00e7\u00e3o and Melga\u00e7o, where it has a tropical and lemony expression. The grape produces a higher-alcohol wine than many of the other varieties used in Vinho Verde, so it\u2019s grown primarily as a blending grape in other parts of the region.\n\nWines that are 100% Alvarinho can only be designated as Vinho Verde if they\u2019re from Mon\u00e7\u00e3o and Melga\u00e7o. The rule was put into place to protect the integrity of the grape in Vinho Verde, but that regulation is set to expire in 2022, as quality improves throughout the region.\nArinto\nThese big bunches of small white grapes are grown throughout Vinho Verde, as well as other parts of Portugal. Arinto is most notable for its high acidity. In warmer, drier areas like Basto and Amarante in the eastern part of Vinho Verde, this acidity is important to maintain the freshness of the wine.\n\nIn those warmer areas, wine made with the grape can also develop some buttery notes, which have led some winemakers to explore 100% Arinto wines.\n\n\nAvesso\nThe rising star of Vinho Verde, this white grape is more common to the southern subappellations of Amarante, Bai\u00e3o, Paiva and Sousa. It\u2019s full-bodied, lower in acid than other grapes in Vinho Verde, and fragrant with tropical and stone fruits.\n\nAvesso\u2019s body and alcohol level make it suitable for barrel aging. As winemakers, particularly in Bai\u00e3o, look for new ways to set themselves apart, they\u2019ve turned increasingly to Avesso-prominent blends or 100% Avesso wines.\nAzal\nThis white grape is a real workhorse of Vinho Verde, especially in inland subregions Amarante, Basto, Bai\u00e3o and Sousa. The second-most planted variety, it ripens late in the season, which allows farmers to harvest more delicate grapes before heat takes its toll on them.\n\nAzal has gentle flavors of apple and citrus, combined with good acidity. These serve to enhance the grapes with a bit more personality in blends, like Avesso and Alvarinho. However, plantings of Azal are on the decline, as winemakers look to grapes better suited to single-varietal vinification.\n\n\nBatoca \nA signature of the arid eastern subappellation of Basto, this is another white grape that has been grown historically to provide a specific purpose in a blend. With Batoca, that quality is smoothness.\n\nAlthough it hasn\u2019t always been considered a quality grape on its own, Batoca does have the body and acidity to make it ageworthy. A single-variety bottling from Quinta de Santa Cristina shows why this grape has potential.\n\n\nLoureiro\nA sharp departure from citrusy, tropical varieties like Alvarinho and Avesso, this white grape has heady floral and peach aromas, along with plenty of body. It\u2019s well suited to the wet, coastal areas in the subregions of Lima, C\u00e1vado, Ave and Sousa, but Loureiro is grown throughout Vinho Verde as a blending grape.\n\nBeyond being used to complement brightness in blends, more experimental varietal bottlings, like Aphros\u2019s amphora-aged wine, are creating 100% Loureiro wines to explore the grape\u2019s aromatic possibilities.\nTrajadura\nThis white grape produces big, late-ripening yields. Trajadura\u2019s big body, plush texture and delicate pear and blossom aromas make it a pleasant, rich complement to racy Alvarinho. And like Alvarinho, it\u2019s grown most in the northern subappellations, clustered around the Minho, though it\u2019s cultivated for blends throughout Vinho Verde.\n\nVarietal bottlings are more common in R\u00edas Baixas, where it\u2019s called Treixadura. However, like other grapes, Trajadura has caught the fancy of some experimental winemakers looking to bring this background singer into the spotlight.\n\n\nThe red grapes of Vinho Verde\nNot many red wines from Vinho Verde make their way stateside, but that may soon change. Red Vinho Verde has been in production much longer and is traditionally served in a white bowl to highlight its deep, murky coloring. These are the three varieties of red Vinho Verde you're most likely to encounter in the U.S.\nAlvarelh\u00e3o\nWhile bottles are especially hard to find, a red grape worth knowing is Alvarelh\u00e3o. Wines made from this variety were only bottled historically for nobility. When monarchy ended in Portugal, so too did Alvarelh\u00e3o. Now winemakers are looking to bring it back, thanks to its balance, finesse and elegance. There have also been experimental plantings in California, if you need further confirmation that this is a grape to watch.\nEspadeiro\nAnother other important red grape is Espadeiro, which is lighter in body and color, with more red fruit. It is a prominent grape for ros\u00e9 and still has Vinho Verde\u2019s signature food-friendly acidity.\nVinh\u00e3o\nThe most widely planted red grape in Vinho Verde, this is high in acidity and supported by firm tannins. Although it can be a bit stemmy, this is a very food-friendly wine that pairs beautifully with pork and game meats.