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Vinho verde review 2014

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vinho verde review 2014Vinho verde keeps getting stranger and stranger, but that’s the wine business for you. What’s the first thing it does when it has a drinkable, $6 wine? Confuse the issue, of course.

This year, there are varietal vinho verdes, something I’ve never seen before. Vinho verde, a Portuguese white wine that’s actually kind of green, is supposed to be an inexpensive, non-vintage, simple wine served ice cold, and even with an ice cube. But, in a trend that started last year, producers are trying to take vinho verde upscale, and one bottle I tasted (I did eight this year) cost $13. This baffled my friend Jim Serroka, a vinho aficianado: “Why, when you get something right, do you have to change it?” he asked.

Blended vinho verde, made with three grapes that most wine geeks haven’t heard of, is slightly sweet with lime or green apple fruit and very low alcohol, plus some fizz that’s more like club soda than sparkling wine. You buy it, drink it, and forget about it. It’s the quintesstial summer porch wine, which isn’t surprising given the region’s 100-degree summer temperatures.

Most of the single varietals that I tasted, made with one of the three grapes used in the blend, were sour and not in a good way. The one that stood out and was worth the extra money was Anjos ($10, sample, 9.5%) — a little sour, a little sweet, some bubbles, and very fresh.

Otherwise, stick with the $6 versions. The Sonalto ($6, purchased, 9%), known for its crab label and also called Santola, was much as always:  Fresh, limey and effervescent, without too much sweetness or the warm beer taste that sometimes shows up. The Famega ($6, purchased, 10.5%) went in a slightly different direction, with more apple, but is still enjoyable.

For more on vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2013
Vinho verde review 2012
Vinho verde review 2011

Vinho verde review 2013

vinho verde review 2013The damnedest thing happened when the Wine Curmudgeon went vinho verde shopping this year. The wines, usually around $5 or $6, weren’t that cheap. Most were about $8, and one cost $11 – a price that seemed to defeat vinho verde’s purpose.

That’s because vinho verde, a Portuguese white wine that’s actually kind of green, is supposed to be an inexpensive, simple wine served ice cold – with an ice cube, even. It’s made for hot summer days and it starts to wear out around the time the kids go back to school in September. It’s slightly sweet with lime or green apple fruit and very low alcohol, plus some fizz – more like club soda than sparkling wine. You buy it, drink it, and forget about it.

Why anyone thinks they can get more than $10 for vinho verde is beyond me. Are you listening, Broadbent?

Most vinho verde is made by a handful of companies, which they sell to retailers under a variety of labels. This year, the Sonalto ($6, purchased, 9%) was about as good as vinho verde gets — fresh, limey and effervescent, without too much sweetness or the warm beer taste that is sometimes a problem. You may see the same wine called Santola; both have a crab on the label.

For more on vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2012
Vinho verde review 2011
Vinho verde review 2010

Wine of the week: Vinho verde

A funny thing happened on the way to the annual vinho verde review. I tasted some poorly made wine, which has never happened before, and almost didn’t do the review.

The thing about the Portuguese vinho verde, as regular visitors know, is that it’s not complicated enough to screw up. It’s an inexpensive, simple wine, slightly sweet with lime or green apple fruit, plus some fizz – more like club soda than sparkling wine. It’s low in alcohol and needs to be ice cold, which makes it the ideal wine for this time of year. It’s not made to age, even for a couple of months, and usually wears out by the time cooler weather arrives.

A couple of producers make most of the vinho verde, which they sell under different labels.This year, though, much of the wine was underwhelming. The Gazela ($7, purchased) was sour, not especially fruity, and thin – more like Alka-Seltzer than wine. The Famega ($7, purchased), usually the standard, was only a little more enjoyable than the Gazela. It had some sweetness and the traditional spritz, but also an unpleasant, almost quinine flavor.

Fortunately, the Casal Garcia ($6, purchased) was up to snuff, fresh and lively. It tasted of very tart green apples, with the right amount of fizz and sweetness. I drank it with linguine with grilled shrimp (lots of garlic and parsley, too), and it did exactly what it was supposed to do. What more can you ask of a $6 wine?

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