If more people knew about this wine’s charms there would be a run on the stuff, and that “6” would be a much bigger number because vinho verde is as easy to buy and drink as a bottle of water at the beach. In fact, some vinho verde looks a little like water, with barely a tint of gold or green, or…anything. Come to think of it, some vinho verde looks more like water than some water! And it always goes better with fish.
Vinho verde is meant to be drunk while it is young — a month after it was bottled, or a day if you can get your hands on it that fast (realistically, up to a year is fine) — and that is why it is called “green wine.” In this case green refers not to its hue, or the verdant, rain-kissed, rolling hills of the region. The wine is referred to as “green” for its youth, and in this case youth is not wasted on the young.
Delivering everything from tangy lemon, lime and green apple all the way up to more lush peach and melon, sometimes with a light spritz and sometimes without it (with no obvious reasoning as to why or when), these wines are good partners for salads, sushi, light seafood and pork. Their high acidity — thank you, sweet abundance of granite soil — makes them a natural match for food. But come on now. We’ve got the same word in all of our heads. Let’s say it together: aperitif. While most highly acidic wine begs for protein and fat, this wine longs only for thirst and anticipation. If chow shows up before the end of the rendezvous, well, all the better.
About 20 different white grape varieties are allowed in the vinho verde DOC, but the majority of the appellation’s whites come from six grapes: Alvarinho (the Spaniards next door call it Albarino), Avesso, Azal, Arinto, Loureiro and Trjadura. Most vinho verdes clock in relatively low in alcohol (9 to 12 percent), while some, especially the Alvarinho-based wines, can inch up to 14 percent. Proceed with caution if you have chosen one of those to act as your aperitif.
When any of these wines offer up a delightfully light fizz, it is from carbon dioxide injections, not from fermentation. It is a tiny spritz that will not tickle your nose, and might not even tickle your tongue. Most likely, though, it will tickle your fancy. Think of it as a bonus — not an essential element of the wine.
Vinho verde is not Olympic medal-round volleyball. It is a game of two-on-two beach volleyball played by former all-conference college players, probably from the Pac-12, who are still in shape but want to have some fun.
Although that was my second beach reference, let’s not get swept away in the traditional way of thinking that says vinho verde is just a summer wine. Your mouth needs waking up every day of the year.
• Casal Garcia vinho verde: A beauty and a classic, with lime, green apple and some softness in the mouth leading to a gradual finish. This one cries out for light seafood. $7
• 2014 Aveleda vinho verde: Delighfully fizzy, with soft flavors of peach and sweet melon, and at a very reasonable 9.5 percent alcohol, which means you can drain the bottle with a friend. $7
• Gazela vinho verde: It's a peach party! Tons o' peach on the nose and palate, but it is all balanced out by citrusy notes and a crisp finish. Pair this one with roasted pork. $6
• Broadbent vinho verde: The lightest of the group in every way—low fizz, subtle green apple, 9 percent alcohol—it is a natural aperitif, or a perfect hot-weather sipper. $8
• Pavão vinho verde Escolha: If you are looking for a really slow and satisfying climb from bright lime to lush peach, this wine is your jam — and it's a steal at this price. $8
• Vidigal vinho verde: Perhaps the fizziest of the group, this legitimate thirst-quencher bursts through with bright citrus and tongue-cleansing acidity that would stand up well to ceviche. $9