With all this high humidity, it seems to me that there couldn’t be a better time to sit back and have a cool sip of wine…but, it’s probably a good idea to keep it light. One of the classic wines that Europeans often turn to in this kind of weather is Vino Verdhe, a crisp, refreshing wine from Portugal. It’s low alcohol and naturally sparkling and can be had alone or in a “spritz” mode by adding either soda or tonic and some ice.
Here are a few worth seeking out-
Anselmo Mendes, Vinho Verde, Alvarinho, “Contacto,” 2017, ($19.99), made in Monção e Melgaço, this appellation’s northernmost sub region, this white Vinho Verde is all alvarinho, the acacia-scented grape traditional to this area that makes some of the region’s most complex and longest-lasting wines. Anselmo Mendes is one of Monção’s top producers, mixing his legacy as the son of a local grower with a flair for experimentation. For this bottle, he turned to a red winemaking process, leaving the grape skins in the must briefly after crushing, for a touch of tannin, structure, and intense floral notes. The skin contact makes this wine age-worthy, too. With a creamy texture, and complex aromas that run from lemon juice and pith to subtly fruity citron, with tart unripe peach, bay leaves, and hay mixed in, the wine also channels a sweeping saltiness and minerality. This golden-hued Vinho Verde is built to last for up to a decade. Pair with briny shellfish, lobster, and scallops.
Quinta de Covela, Vinho Verde, “Edição Nacional,” Avesso, 2017, Minho, Portugal, ($12.99). In the Baião subregion, in the region’s south, hot dry summers and cold winters indulge late-ripening grapes like avesso, the white variety native to this area that gives Baião its claim to quality wine. This single-varietal avesso wine is Covela’s first Vinho Verde, grown organically in granite-rich soils along the Douro river, then harvested by hand and fermented naturally by ambient yeasts. The avesso grape tends toward higher alcohol levels than other Vinho Verde grapes, resulting in fuller-bodied wines that beg to be served alongside food. This one displays an atypical cutting acidity, and ultimately yields a balanced, structured wine with tangy lemon and grapefruit notes, plus wisps of bitterness, peach, and sage. If hunger strikes, fried seafood croquettes or a well-herbed salad are the proper match.
Caves Campelo, Cruzeiro Minhoto, Vinho Verde, Rosado, 2017, ($8.99), A mix of three Portuguese red grapes—borraçal, azal tinto, and vinhão grown in granite soils and picked by hand—this rosé Vinho Verde combines several sub regions in one wine. It likewise highlights the area’s penchant for tiny holdings (vineyards are rarely larger than 5 hectares), and well-regarded winemaking co-operatives, like Caves Campelo. Each grape variety is vinified separately, for a final blend that references older Vinho Verde styles: refreshing acidity and low alcohol, with a touch of sweetness and bubbles. Flavors of strawberry, orange, and thyme, with a steely, stony texture, make it a wine for deliciously easy drinking at aperitif time, or alongside simple Portuguese-inspired dishes like baked cod and potatoes.
Quinta da Lixa, Vinho Verde, tinto, 2017, ($9.99). This quinta—the name for winery in northern Portugal—is located in the southern, inland Amarante sub region, where hot summers and altitudes well above 100 meters allow for deeply ripened grapes, especially red ones, for which this sub region is known. The vinhão grape is a specialty here, and this red Vinho Verde translates to a frothy, violet-ruby-color wine, with fresh, deep flavors of blackberries, rosemary, candied violets and damp earth, plus bright acidity and soft tannins. It’s a mouthful: dry, refreshing, and made for sweet and savory dishes like barbecue pork, or Portuguese roasted goat.
So, sit back, beat the heat and enjoy!
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