While there are over 30 indigenous vitis vinifera grapes (the species of grapes used for all fine wines) native to the Vinho Verde region, the CVRVV (Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes) recommends the following seven white grapes and eight red grapes as the best to cultivate:
Alvarinho is widely considered the finest white grape of the Minho region and is also known as Albariño in the Rías Baixas region of Spain just to the north. Plantings are concentrated in the Monção and Melgaço sub-region but also found in other areas. The Alvarinho grape is known for its perfumed floral qualities and peach/apricot and sweet citrus notes that resemble Viognier. Its vibrant acidity and minerality are similar to Riesling.
Arinto is grown throughout the Minho region and commonly used in Vinho Verde whites. Arinto often displays green pear and bright citrus fruit aromas with vibrant acidity on the palate. The grape is also sometimes listed as Pedernã on some wine labels.
Avesso is first cultivated in the Baião sub-region, the grape is now grown in Amarante, Paiva and Sousa. Aromas and flavors include orange, peach, almond and white flowers with a touch of minerality.
Azal is widely grown in the inland sub-regions of Amarante, Basto, Baião and Sousa. Here the grape can fully ripen in drier conditions when planted in well-exposed soils. Aromas and flavors include green apple, tart lemon and lime citrus.
Plantings of Batoca are limited to the Basto sub-region. The finished wines have richer alcohol levels and lower acidity.
Loureiro is cultivated throughout the Minho region. The grape is very adaptable to cooler coastal areas. An ancient indigenous variety, Loureiro is known for its pronounced floral-peach aromatics and rich palate.
Trajadura is also grown throughout the Minho and known for its delicacy and finesse. Known for its rich apple/pear and ripe peach fruit, the grape adds richness, texture and body to Vinho Verde whites.
Alvarelhão is cultivated in the Monção sub-region but can also be found in the Douro region to the south. Alvarelhão ripens easily, and its rich fruit qualities add intensity and body to Vinho Verde reds.
Amaral is known for producing rich, intensely-colored red wines with vibrant red fruits and tart, mouthwatering acidity. The grape is widely grown in the Ave, Sousa, Amarante and Baião sub-regions.
Borraçal is cultivated throughout the Minho region and known for its high natural tartaric and malic acid content. Borraçal adds tart red fruits, herbal qualities and bright acidity to finished wines.
Espadeiro requires warmer microclimates to ripen and thus plantings are concentrated in the more inland sub-regions of Ave, Sousa, Amarante and Paiva. Fully ripe Espadeiro at its best displays aromas and flavors of youthful red fruits, red flowers and herbal notes. Espadeiro is also often used for rosé wines.
Padeiro is planted primarily in the sub-region of Basto but can also be found in Ave and Cávado as well. Padeiro adds structure and tart acidity to red blends.
Plantings of Pedral are focused in Monção. When fully ripened, Pedral adds body, weight and color to the wines.
Rabo-de-Anho is limited to the Basto sub-region. It is not widely grown as it is the last of all the red varieties to ripen and is often the victim of fall rains.
Vinhão is a high quality red grape grown throughout the Minho region. Vinhão does well in both cool coastal and warmer inland regions in a variety of different soil types. It ripens well and adds pronounced black and red fruit notes and a firm structure to wines.