The earliest written records of wine from the region are taken from the writings of the noted Roman philosopher Seneca and naturalist Pliny in the first century A. D. Roman occupation was followed by centuries of Visigoth and Moorish rule that ended with the establishment of the Kingdom of Portugal and the crowning of King Afonso Henriques in 1139 in the town of Guimarães, located in what is now the Vinho Verde region.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the population of northwest Iberia concentrated in what is now the Minho region. Documents show that monastic orders played an important part in both grape growing and winemaking during that time. Although exports were very limited, we know from historical records that these were the first Portuguese wines to be sent to European markets (England, Flanders and Germany); in particular those from the Monção and Melgaço and Ribeira de Lima regions. However, 16th century laws favored the planting of maize, forcing farmers to uproot vines and either replant them in marginal spaces or train them to grow high above ground on tall trees or on trellises. This vine-training method is called enforcado and can still be found today, though producers favor more modern methods of vine training which help to produce better quality wines.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a renewed focus on quality and regulating the production and trading of Vinho Verde wines. The Legal Charter of September 18, 1908 and the Decree of October 1, 1908 demarcated the Vinho Verde Region for the very first time. The region was named as a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) in 1984 and overseen by the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes (Wine Commission of the Vinho Verde Region).
The modern wine era of Vinho Verde has emerged only within the last few decades. Before then most wines were consumed locally or exported to Portuguese communities in the U.S. and former colonies. Portugal’s entry into the European Union in 1986 brought dramatic change with much-needed funding for roads, vineyards, wineries and better access to foreign markets. Today over 19,000 growers farm over 51,000 acres, making Vinho Verde the country’s largest wine region. An average of 80 million liters of wine is produced annually and exported to more than 100 markets worldwide.