Vinho verde is often badly translated as ‘green wine’ but it really just means young wine; light, fresh, slightly effervescent and best drunk within a year of bottling. Within this overall category of Portuguese wines, there’s a surprising variety of flavours, as I discovered when I visited Quinta de Santa Cristina for a winery tour and vinho verde wine tasting session.
Portugal’s vinho verde wine region covers the northwest of Portugal, mainly the Minho region, and spreads down and past the Douro River in Basto, the sub-region where Quinta de Santa Cristina is located. The climate here is quite different from that in the far north, with hotter days and increased solar exposure that results in a slightly higher alcohol content than is typical for vinho verde.
Views from Quinta de Santa Cristina
Having just spent a few days with my friend in the Douro wine region, the rugged green landscape of the Minho made a pleasant change and broke up our journey to Porto airport. Quinta de Santa Cristina’s modern winery building has a privileged view of the Marão and Alvão Mountains as well as the valley below.
The wine estate encompasses a small chapel dedicated to Saint Cristina, whose story you will learn about on the tour, a camellia garden containing 50 varieties and three farms.
Walking in the vineyards
The winery tour Jules and I did began with a short walk around the vineyards to better understand the significance of the location, the extent of the quinta’s vineyards and the 11 different varieties of grapes they produce.
If you have the time and energy, there are two other marked walking routes around the estate with information boards to tell you about the most important grapes, such as Alvarinho, Fernão Pires and the rare Batoca.
Batoca grapes and unique wine
Liliana explained that Batoca is a high maintenance grape variety and because it is so demanding, most wineries don’t bother growing it. Quinta de Santa Cristina is the only one to go to the trouble of producing enough of this grape for a fruity, smooth and fresh mono-varietal wine which I’d happily drink more of.
Vinho verde winery tour
The vineyards predate the winery building, which is modern and well-designed. Liliana explained the process and purpose of the various machinery involved in taking the grapes from unloading through to the bottling plant. I must have been absorbed by what she was telling us because I have no photos of this part of the tour!
They also make sparkling wines here and have bottles stacked in the riddling racks awaiting hand-turning and the ‘secret sauce’ that will determine their sweetness.
Vinho verde wine tasting and regional foodie treats
Of course the best part of visiting a winery is the wine tasting, especially when accompanied by quality local produce like cured, marinated sheep’s cheese and red wine chouriço.
We started with the white Batoca wine I mentioned earlier. Of the 3 wines we tasted, this was my favourite.
The second white vinho verde was a blend of Alvarinho and Trajadura grapes with a noticeable pineapple aroma and flavour. Liliana described it as a gateway to vinho verde for those that struggle with the slightly higher acidity levels. I’ve long been a vinho verde fan and wasn’t overly keen on this one, specifically because of the strong tropical notes.
The pleasant rosé vinho verde wine had a slight hint of strawberries and red fruits; mildly sweet yet refreshing and perfect for an afternoon tipple.
Our ‘expert’ verdict
Jules and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and vinho verde wine tasting, finding it just the right balance of information without overload. This was our 6th winery tour in the space of 4 days (all in the name of research, of course) and we both declared it the most enjoyable.
Practicalities for visiting Quinta de Santa Cristina
You can visit Quinta de Santa Cristina as part of a multi-day holiday touring the best of the vinho verde region with a driver and guide.
If you prefer to be independent, no problem:
See my tips on car rentals here.
Range of tours and activities
With activities ranging from simple wine tastings to picnics, Segway tours and adventure park thrills, all you need to do is pick something that suits your availability, energy levels and budget. The range and quality of tours is so good that they’ve won the “Best of Wine Tourism, 2017” award from the Association of Great Wine Capitals.
Full-day programmes that mix wine with other interests are not yet on the website but include golf and wine, horse riding and wine and wine with Romanesque architecture and 11th century castle.
Make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance, 48 for the programmes that include activities away from the winery:
If you don’t have your own transport, this one day Vinho Verde small group tour from Porto is a great way to discover these fresh young wines. Get 5% off with my code: FOX5
If you’d like more time to enjoy the beautiful scenery, why not look into an overnight stay in Celérico de Basto?
Nearby accommodation in Celórico de Basto
Clean, modern and spacious, the 4-star Celórico Palace Hotel is only a couple of kilometres from the quinta so you could walk there and back if you want to enjoy the wine without worrying about driving, especially if you do the picnic tour. It has an indoor and outdoor pool, onsite spa and restaurant.Book your room in Celérico Palace Hotel
Quinta das Escomoeiras is a delightful country retreat on the banks of the Tâmega River. The traditional stone building is surrounded by vineyards outdoor pool and terrace with views. It’s further away from the winery but the free bike hire may help (check the hill situation first).Find other accommodation in Celorico de Basto
Disclosure: I visited Quinta de Santa Cristina as a guest. Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which simply means that at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission that helps to keep this blog going.