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One of my favorite things to do on a summer evening is to sit in the garden, listen to the wind rustle the leaves, contemplate ideas, and breathe in the aroma of an effervescent glass of wine. Among wines with a slight fizz, my absolute favorite for summertime contemplative quaffing is Vinho Verde. As luck would have it, my local grocer/wine shop, Taylor’s Market, had an exemplary and affordable Vinho Verde just waiting for me in the cooler last night.
Vinho Verde translates in English to “green wine.” This name is not meant to evoke the color of the wine, but rather that it is meant to be bottled and drunk young. Vinho Verde is ideally imbibed within a year of being bottled, if not sooner, for the sake of its fresh and bubbly character. In fact, vintners don’t even bother putting a vintage on the label, though they do frequently stamp it with the bottling date.
About those bubbles– Vinho Verde is treated with a small dose of carbon dioxide just before it’s bottled, and that accounts for the tiny bubbles visible in the glass and pleasant fizz on the tongue.
True “Vinho Verde” may only be bottled in the Minho region of Northwest Portugal. It’s usually made with one or more of several different white grape varietals in the region. Red Vinho Verde is locally available, should you find yourself sipping wine in Portugal (lucky you.) If you, like me, are reliant on imports, it’s likely you’ll be dealing with the usual white Vinho Verde grape suspects– Trajadura, Alvarinho, Loureiro, Arinto, Avesso, Azal, etc. You’ve probably noticed that the name on the label in the picture is a play on the two grapes involved in this particular bottle– Trajadura and Alvarinho = Trajarinho.
Because it is so young, good Vinho Verde should always seem the very paragon of fresh; its acidity balancing pleasant fruit and floral characters. I suggest you apprehend a bottle while the summer is still new, and enjoy it outdoors at your earliest convenience.
Now go celebrate your newfound knowledge of the grapes, character, terminology, and origins of this slightly sparkly summer wine, by trying that Vinho Verde quiz at the top of this post. Or by drinking it. Or both!