It’s summertime, and that’s when we move ourselves and our parties outside. When it comes to warm weather beverages, I would posit that most of us agree that more refreshing libations are most pleasurable. ‘Hey, my phone says it’s 89 degrees out here right now – you know, I think I’ll have a hot buttered rum.’ No, you wouldn’t say that. What you actually want is the opposite. Here’s where I present you with Vinho Verde, the magical summer white wine from northwest Portugal. It is the Champagne of Beers of white wine – as expensive as a sixer of Miller High Life, but classy. Hardly ever more expensive than $10 and often around the $6 mark, a bottle of Vinho Verde is, in my opinion, the best wine, both in character and in value, for summer drinking.
If you’re not familiar with Vinho Verde, it’s a wine growing region in the northwest of Portugal – the largest one in the country. The grapes that make up Vinho Verde vary by subregion, but Trajadura, Loureiro, and Pederna are what we see most in the USA. Vinho Verde is light in body and color, high in acid, low in alcohol (8-10%), and a little bit fizzy. The bottle I’m enjoying right now has flavors of Granny Smith apple and lemon; it’s like a cross of Sauvignon Blanc and dry Riesling but with a little less ripe fruit and about a third of the body.
Vinho Verde is cheap. Vinho Verde is delicious. If you ever find a dusty bottle of this wine in a cellar rack, don’t expect to enjoy drinking it; Vinho Verde is meant to be drunk within a year of harvest. It’s fresh – the name itself means ‘green wine’ because of its youth. Don’t save this wine for an anniversary or moon landing, just enjoy it while it’s hot (the outside temperature, not the wine).
Many bottles of Vinho Verde come with a screw cap. I think the screw cap has gained a lot of acceptance in recent years, but if you still see the screw cap as a harbinger of silly garbage wine, please trust me that implies no such thing. No, serving Vinho Verde at your party will not impress your wine friends (if you’re so very blessed enough to have any) because of its longevity, complexity, or prestige in the wine world. It’s simply a perfect wine for the hot, hot summertime.
Other than being crisp and refreshing and high in value, Vinho Verde is also extremely versatile when it comes to pairing with food. It goes especially well with the light to medium fare of summertime; fish, chicken, salsa, potato salad, cole slaw, bratwurst, fruit salad, chop salad, grilled vegetables, goat cheese – they’re all friends of Vinho Verde.
Let’s mix it up…
Since Vinho Verde is inexpensive, and has no complex qualities that necessitate drinking the wine by itself and pondering the very geologic soul and history of the terroir from whence it came, hey let’s make a pitcher of some awesome white sangria. Vinho Verde is fizzy, remember? Roll over 7-Up, there’s a new sheriff in the the punch bowl.
White Sangria (definitely feel free to choose your own blend of accompanying fruits)
- 1 bottle of Vinho Verde
- 4oz sparkling water
- 1 grannysmith apple, cut into ½” cubes
- 1 pear, cut into ½” cubes
- 1 lime, sliced into circles
- 1 orange, quartered lengthwise and then sliced into thin wedges
- ½ cup frozen strawberries, cut into ½” cubes (or as close as you can get)