Saturday, July 20, 2013

Vinho Verde: Your New Favorite Summer Wine

There’s a certain type of wine I love to drink in the summer.  I look for something that can be drunk cold, is crisp, light, refreshing, and is cheap enough to be served at summer barbeques.  If you’re spending any time outside in the heat, it’s also good if the wine’s lower in alcohol.

Vinho Verde (pronounced “Veenyo Vaird”) is one of the greatest summer wines that few people know about.  It comes from Portugal and is usually white, light, crisp, and very slightly sweet.  It’s slightly fizzy – what the Italians call frizzante and the French call petillant.  Its flavors are usually clean and simple, citrusy, with an occasional hint of tropical fruits or minerality.  Vinho Verdes are made from a variety of local Portuguese grapes, such as Arinto, Trajadura, and Loureiro.  I think of them as the barely-sweet, slightly fizzy lemonades of wine.  They have all the qualities I like in a summer wine, and because they are high in acid, they go well with many foods – fish, chicken, veggies, and all your favorite light, fresh summer foods!  Better yet, they're almost always under $10.

I’ve tasted several Vinho Verdes that are available in our area and made some tasting notes.  The first 2 are simple and fruity, while the second 2 have a few more earthy characteristics.  In general, the lower the alcohol, the more sweetness they’re likely to have.  They’re all tasty - give one a try!

Simple and Fruity

Producer:  Opala
Grapes:  not listed
Price:  $9
Where Purchased:  Whole Foods
Tasting Note:  crisp, refreshing, fairly simple, off-dry (slightly sweet), slight carbonation, flavors of apples and lemons.

Producer:  Esteio
Grapes:  not listed
Price:  $6 - $9
Where Purchased:  HEB
Tasting Note:  aromas of citrus and peach with a hint of melon, off-dry, slight carbonation, high acid.  9% abv.

A Bit More Earthy

Producer:  Anjos
Grapes:  40% Arinto, 30% Trajadura, 30% Loureiro
Price:  ~$9
Where Purchased:  Houston Wine Merchant
Tasting Note:  slightly fizzy, primarily dry with just a hint of sweetness, high acid, citrus flavors of lemon and grapefruit.  9.5% abv

Producer:  Casal Garcia
Grapes:  not listed
Price:  $7 - $10
Where Purchased:  Spec's, Kroger
Tasting Note:  aromas of citrus and minerality, a hint of sweetness, slightly carbonated, high acid.  10% abv.

(Some of these were from the 2011 vintage, and some bottles didn’t name a vintage.)


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