Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"V" is for Vinho Verde

I recently rediscovered one of my favourite white wines from Portugal called Vinho Verde while dining at a local Greek restaurant about a month ago. I had ordered the chef’s specialty of fried calamari with tzatziki. “Vinho Verde is my recommendation,” the sommelier declared. I agreed.

I fell in love with this crisp, dry white wine all over again. Vinho Verde possesses spritzy effervescence and a distinctive lemony flavor that complements dishes with lemony or tangy flavoured ingredients. Vinho Verde served with sizzling, fried calamari with a splash of fresh lemon juice and a side order of tangy, garlicky tzatziki was nothing short of heavenly. Since this experienced I’ve purchased several different brands of this Portuguese wine to match to dishes I create at home.

For example, one chilling night last week, I decided to make Armenian lentil soup. While it may simmer for hours, this simple recipe contains nothing more than vegetable broth, dried lentils, olive oil, lots of garlic and plenty of fresh lemon juice. These ingredients harmonize with the crisp acidity and lemony flavor of a chilled Vinho Verde. The hot soup also contrasted nicely with a glass of this chilled wine that boasts light carbonation and tart, refreshing acidity.

Vinho Verde is a region located in the historic province of Minho, in the northwest corner of Portugal between the Douro River and the Minho River. The climate is fairly humid and cool. Unlike the trellising systems used in North America to train vines, the vines in Vinho Verde are trained up trees in what is called the hanging system, or on traditional pergolas. These ancient systems are slowly being replaced with cross-shaped cruzetas, garlands and fencing. The name Vinho Verde means ‘green wine’ but refers to the crisp acidity rather than to the wine’s colour. The grapes used to produce this wine are alvarinho and loureiro. The most sought after vinhos derive from the Albarinho grape (AlbariƱo across the border in Spain).

Three qualities of Vinho Verde are produced. Vinho regional is the lowest level classification. It is similar to the designation of vin de pays in France. The IPR (Indicacao de Proveniencia Regulamentada) is the next level of quality and is similar to the VDQS in France. The DOC (Denominacao de Origem Controlada) is the equivalent of AOC in France and VQA in Ontario, and is Portugal’s highest rank of quality wine.

The LCBO carries a selection of Vinho Verde ranging in price from $8.00 to $20.00. The inexpensive ones serve as an accompaniment for appetizers featuring citrus, sour cream, yogurt or vinaigrette flavours. Pricier versions are an excellent match for seafood and chicken entrees highlighting the same tangy flavours.

Due to its tanginess, this crisp white is an excellent match for seafood and fish. Drizzle either in fresh lemon juice and you'll have a pairing that creates the MOAN Factor for you and your guests.

No comments:

Post a Comment