Summer is here, luring us to break away from our many and sundry electronic screens and actually go outside. Put a picnic together! Go to the beach or have a backyard barbecue! And my personal favorite, attend an outdoor concert (toting a bottle of wine or two, of course). Lively, crisp, surprisingly inexpensive wine from Portugal will amp up your enjoyment level and reinforce your decision to ditch the device.
Not all wine from Portugal is Port. Nor is it always red, white or pink. Some of it is green. And I don’t (necessarily) mean young or produced in a sustainable way. I’m referring to Vinho Verde, or “green wine”, which is literally somewhat greenish in color and quite refreshing on the palate.
I’d like to share a few food and budget friendly, no fuss/no corkscrew wines that might provide a refreshing change to traditional standbys like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.
Wine from Portugal
As in many other parts of Europe, Portugal produces its own unique regional grape varieties. For example, the Vinho Verde I mentioned earlier can be made from any or all of the following grapes: Azal, Loureiro, Trajadura, Avesso, Arinto, Paderna and Alvarinho (Albarino in Spain). Each winemaker creates their own special blend, reflecting their particular tastes and terroir.
The leading producer and exporter of Vinho Verde is Aveleda Portugal. For over 140 years, Aveleda wines have expressed a love of the land (actually it’s a several hundred acre estate) while maintaining biodiversity and a healthy environment. Fifth generation winemaker Antonio Azevedo Guedes describes his wines as “a testament to our commitment to sustainable innovation…while keeping our family-owned tradition and approach.” Making this a “green wine” with a light footprint on the planet. It is also gentle on the wallet at around $8. Lemony, lightly effervescent and low in alcohol, this wine is great as an aperitif or chilled and served with cold shellfish. Think about taking it to a pot-luck lunch– a low key, yet sparkly complement to chicken or those quirky salads that people like to bring.
You could also focus your sights on a single-varietal wine from Portugal. Alvarihno is known as the “queen” grape for its elegance and balance. Invite a few friends over and serve it well-chilled with a few dozen freshly-shucked oysters while you’re getting the dinner ready. The 2013 Aveleda Alvarinho has hit the shelves at a very reasonable $10 and delivers an intensely fruity, floral taste and smooth structure. As a bonus, it’s one of the very few wines that pair well with asparagus, which of course you’re serving with a nice poached salmon.
But maybe you’re heading off to a barbecue and you want to bring an interesting red wine from Portugal. How about a 2011 Delaforce Touriga Nacional from the famed Duoro region? Fun fact: the Duoro was the world’s first demarcated wine region, way back in 1756! They probably weren’t making wines with this much character and depth of flavor. Whether burgers or chicken are on the grill, this $18-20 bottle will go over well– lively red and black fruit flavors, smooth tannins and an ever-popular vanilla finish lend credence to its 93 point rating from Wine Spectator.
Not that you shouldn’t pull out the Port if you’re so inclined! The current release (2011 vintage) was universally highly rated, and is still quite reasonably priced. You just might have to wait a few decades to fully enjoy this wine from Portugal. KEN