Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Vinho Verde

I was going to write about the Vierwaldstättersee, my favorite lake in Switzerland:

Instead I am going to discuss the virtues of vinho verde (literally "green wine" in Portuguese).  Vinho verde is a type of wine produced in the Minho region of Portugal.  It is called green wine because of how young and refreshing the wine is, though the most common varieties are white wines that may possess a slightly greenish hue.  In fact, I later learned that there are white, rosé, and red varieties of vinho verde.  Because of its youth, you tend to drink it within a year, and the alcohol content (in the white wines at least) are lower, around 9-11% abv.  It is not quite a semi-sparkling wine, but there is a hint of fizziness, which just adds to the refreshing character of the wine.  Vinho verde enjoys official name protection and pretty much exclusively denotes wines produced from certain grapes following certain guidelines in a region known as Entre-Douro-e-Minho.

I was first introduced to vinho verde on, of all days, my 30th birthday.  My friends and I gathered alongside the lake in Lutry for an evening picnic, and one person brought a bottle of Gazela vinho verde.  I really enjoyed it, and as coincidence would have it, I was leaving early the next morning to go to a conference in Porto.  Now, you would expect that I would drink a lot of port while in Porto (and I did), but my beverage of choice in the warm Portuguese summer was vinho verde.  As far as I am concerned, no wine is better enjoyed in hot weather or accompanying fresh seafood.  Porto had an abundance of this in Matosinhos, where restaurants line the sidewalks selling freshly caught and grilled fish (particularly sardinha assada, grilled sardines).  Actually, I could spend a whole blog post just waxing poetic about the fish in Matosinhos.

I have yet to try rosé or red vinho verde, but with the weather growing warmer here in Philadelphia, I certainly plan to.  If you have never had vinho verde, I suggest you take the opportunity this summer to do so.  It makes a great aperitif or, as I have said, pairs well with simply prepared grilled fish (whitefish mostly) and shellfish.  I have tried a few producers -- Gazela, Casal Garcia, and Aveleda are the ones I can remember -- and have not been disappointed.  And vinho verde is inexpensive, so taking a flier on a bottle hardly requires an investment.  Check out the official Portuguese webpage (in English) for much more information about vinho verde.