Summer is in full swing and it's hot out there. It's prime white wine drinking season. But when the temperature spikes even the California Chardonnays can seem a bit heavy. If you have run through your New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and looking for something else that is light and refreshing on a summer evening, the wines of the Vinho Verde region in Portugal
may be just the thing.
I recently attending a tasting of Vinho Verde wines held by Tasting Panel magazine
. There I made the acquaintance of a new grape to look for in summer wines, Alvarinho. The Alvarinho grapes produce a wine that has a light straw color and a scent of fruits such as peach, lemon and passionfruit. The taste is a bit like a Pinot Grigio or perhaps a Sauvignon Blanc but without the minerality that the Sauvignon Blancs are famous for. The name Vinho Verde means that they are green wines, not in color or in eco-friendliness but in youth. The wines are meant to be drunk in their youth. They are also much lower in alcohol than many California whites and are value priced at generally under $10.
Wines to look for to explore Vinho Verde wines include:
The Portal Do Fidalgo 2006 is a deliciously juicy white with tastes of peach and honey. It would be outstanding on one of those nights when it is too hot to cook and you end up nibbling on cheese, bread and vegetables.
The Quinta del Avelada 2006 is a little less sweet and more citrusy than the Portal Do Fidalgo. The low alcohol level (around 10.5%) means you could pair it with a salad or a light meal and not end up overly tipsy.
The Sogrape Gazela
Vinho Verde is light and refreshing with a bit of a fizz. It's only 9% alcohol so it's almost like a readymade wine spritzer. This makes it a great drink for an afternoon garden party, it's as thirst-quenching as a light beer but with more elegance. And it's cheap (around $6) so you can throw a bunch of bottles in an ice-filled tub out on the lawn and let your guests go wild.