Neither Judy nor I had ever heard of vinho verde, green wine, but it showed up on menus almost everywhere we ate in Northern Portugal. We finally ordered a bottle the night we stayed at the Quinta Saõ Miguel in Arcos. The inn is a series of eighteenth century farm buildings converted into graceful rooms with stone walls, ancient wooden beams in the ceilings and claw-footed bathtubs. Around every corner was tucked another patio or garden, florid with pink petunias.
Owner António Jose Rodriques suggested that his wife cook dinner for us. For €12 each, we enjoyed potato and shellfish croquettes, slices of black sausage, grilled salmon, boiled potatoes with a red pepper sauce, French-cut green beans and chocolate mousse. “Green wine,” we learned, refers to the age of the wine, not its color. Ours was a lightly sparkling white wine, crisp and clean. It was so tasty that we finished the whole bottle.
We’d noticed that the grape vines here were planted to border the cornfields; we rarely saw what I’d describe as a dedicated vineyard. Later I read that maize was such an important crop back in the 16th century that farmers were only allowed to plant vines on the perimeters of their fields, to maximize the corn yield. Over the centuries, the tradition has continued.