Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer Wine: Portugal's Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde is the region, not a grape or a style of wine. It's in the northwest corner of Portugal. It's as if you're saying, "I think I'll have a Burgundy," except you’re having a white wine made from grapes you’ve probably never heard before. The grape varieties used in making white Vinho Verde are usually Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, and Azal. They also make red and rose, and all are youthful wines intended to be consumed soon after bottling. In fact, Vinho Verde means, "green wine." That is not a color reference, but a suggestion that the wine is quite youthful.

The Casal Garcia winery was founded in 1939 by Roberto Guedes, the father and grandfather of those who run the business now. The roots of the region go back much, much further than that, of course. Romans like Seneca the Younger and Pliny both made references to vines between the Douro and Minho rivers, I am told. The first record of wine in the region comes from a year with only three digits in it, if that gives you some idea how far back we're talkin'.

The Casal Garcia Sweet Vinho Verde DOC Vino Branco is made from Trajadura, Loureiro, Arinto and Azal, all the above mentioned grapes, without the Avesso.

I don't know why I think of sweet wine as old fogey wine, but I do. And by sweet, I mean off-dry, which is what this wine really is. It just seems like it would be right at home at a bingo game. This Portuguese white wine hits 9.5% abv, as is typical in Vinho Verde, but sweet is not typical. However, it still has plenty of zip in the freshness department. The sweetness, by the way, comes as fruit, not sugar, much like an off-dry Riesling. There are tangerines on the nose and pears on the palate, but don't sniff or swish for much too complexity. Chill it and have it on the porch, while yelling at those kids to get off the lawn.


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