Sipping Portugal 

Vinho Verde is the perfect spring/summer sipper.

A few weeks ago—in light of Earth Day—I wrote about green wines. That is, wines that are produced in an ecologically responsible manner. This week, the topic is a different kind of green wine: Vinho Verde. Translated from the Portuguese, Vinho Verde literally means “green wine.” Or rather, “wine green.” The wine is not green, but it does tend to come in tall Riesling-style bottles made with green glass. Port, of course, is Portugal’s primary gift to wine drinkers, but Vinho Verde is that country’s contribution to the world of white wines.

That being said, Vinho Verde tends to get the short end of the wine-press stick; virtually no one talks or writes about it. Think of Vinho Verde as the Rodney Dangerfield of white wine: It gets no respect. My mission is to change that.

There is a lot to like about Vinho Verde, most of which is produced in the lush, fertile countryside of Portugal’s Minho region, in the far northwest of the country and just across from Spain’s Rías Baixas wine region. For my money, it’s a great warm- weather wine—perfect for sipping on the patio or deck or opening at a picnic. Most Vinho Verde is relatively low in alcohol, usually about 9 or 10 percent by volume, which adds to its warm-weather appeal. On a hot day, you don’t really want to be drinking wines weighing in at 15 percent alcohol and higher.

Also, Vinho Verde has a refreshing, slightly effervescent mouth-feel. It’s not a sparkling wine, but it does have just a hint of fizziness. Racy, bracing acidity is the calling card of Vinho Verde, which makes it a great food wine. It’s hard to beat as a foil for grilled fish, seafood, chicken or pork. Thanks to the wine’s high acidity, each sip serves as a palate cleanser, which means that Vinho Verde is particularly good paired with oily fish. And, it’s also a nice, light wine to serve as an aperitif.

Flavors range from citrus-peach to almond-pineapple-honeysuckle, with floral aromas. Since most Vinho Verde isn’t aged or fermented in wood, the wine is very light and airy on the palate. The subtle fizz comes from carbon dioxide, which is added just prior to bottling. Keep in mind, though, that Vinho Verde is not a wine to cellar. It’s intended to be drunk young. In fact, many producers don’t even bother putting a vintage date on the label, since it’s usually consumed within a year of the wine’s release.

Maybe the best reason to try Vinho Verde is the price. It’s obscenely cheap, with most bottles running well under $10. Even the high-end models—to the extent there are any—are usually priced under $20. It’s a helluva bang for your buck.

The premier producer of Vinho Verde is Aveleda. Aveleda Fonte Vinho Verde is available here in Utah, priced at a mere $8.34. The primary flavor components are lemon-lime and green apple. It’s a wine that really rocks with ceviche and oysters on the half shell.

The other version available here is Broadbent Vinho Verde ($8.99). Producer Bartholomew Broadbent actually ships his wine in refrigerated containers so that, as he puts it, it will “taste like it does in Portugal.” Of course, it doesn’t matter much here since DABC stores don’t have refrigeration—something that drives me nuts, especially when it comes to beer. Like Aveleda, Broadbent Vinho Verde offers green apple and lime notes, with a hint of creaminess. I haven’t tried this match, but one writer called it “the world’s best pairing for Caesar salad.”
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