They’re not the most famous wines. Their grapes are unfamiliar. And their name is slightly misleading. But if they are not yet familiar to you, August is the perfect time to discover Vinho Verde. A product of northern Portugal, they are the quintessential summer wines — delicate, light, refreshing, low in alcohol and lightly pétillant when you pour them, a wine to enjoy in its youth. As for its name, Vinho Verde translates to “green wine,” but here green means young, not aged, and the wine’s color tends toward the palest yellow, not green.
While there are white, rosé and red varieties of Vinho Verde, it’s the whites I recommend here. There are more than a dozen indigenous grape varieties that can be made into white Vinho Verde, but those most often used are Loureiro, Trajadura and Alvarinho. The latter is a relative of Spain’s Albariño, which grows just across the Minho River, the border between the two countries.
José Maria da Fonseca’s Twin Vines 2010 ($9) is a good introduction to Vinho Verde. Named after his twin daughters, this blend of the three major grapes is paleshaded, fresh, crisp and brimming with tropical fruit flavors.
The 100 percent Loureiro of Quinta das Arcas ($10) is almost as pale as water. Beyond that, it shows an exuberant pétillance when poured and a lovely, fruity youthfulness.
The Vinho Verde of Broadbent Selections ($10) is also almost water-light in color, but don’t mistake that for a pale taste. It is a surprisingly forward Vinho Verde with a citric snap and a relatively long finish.
Only Vinho Verde from the two northern regions bordering the Minho River can put Alvarinho on their labels. Quinta da Lixa 2011 ($14) is one of them. Made 100 percent of the grape, this wine shows more depth, subtler fruit in the nose and a longer aftertaste than most Vinho Verdes.
The Artisan Collection offers three Vinho Verdes under the Las Lilas label. There is a 100 percent Alvarinho, a 100 percent Loureiro and one that blends 50 percent of each of these grapes. The two 100 percent wines, especially, are brimming with fresh fruit flavors — tasty wines indeed. Prices run from $10–12.
Enjoy Vinho Verde with salads, seafood, appetizers and by itself — the perfect August aperitif.
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