Summer's coolest wine
July 15th, 2013
08:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

When the heat-haze is lying over the land and even the cheerful chipmunks in the park are sweating and swearing like dock workers, a simple question springs to mind: in the height of summer, what kind of lunatic would open a bottle of big, rich, oaky, high-alcohol Chardonnay when instead they could be drinking Vinho Verde?

I'm perplexed by Vinho Verde's lack of popularity pretty much all year, but my mystification reaches epic proportions during the height of summer. I don't think, for warm-weather wine drinking, there's really a better choice (equal, maybe, but not better).

Vinho Verde comes from northern Portugal. The name translates as "green wine," more or less, which is a reference not to the wine's color but to the youthfulness of the grapes when they are harvested. There's actually red Vinho Verde out there, too, though as far as I'm concerned most of it tastes like battery acid.

The white version - much the better choice - is typically a blend of white grape varieties native to Portugal's and Spain's Atlantic coast: loureiro, trajadura, and others. More expensive versions (i.e. $13 rather than $7 a bottle) often include Albarino, known in Portugal as Alvarinho.

Tartly citrusy, with a kind of chalky, seashell finish, Vinho Verde is traditionally bottled with a tiny amount of CO2 remaining from fermentation - not quite fizzy, but prickly to the tongue in a refreshing way. Look for top producers such as Soalheiro, Aveleda (Quinta da Aveleda is their best wine; Casal Garcia is a few dollars less and also quite good), Adega de Moncao, Quinta do Ameal, Broadbent, Anselmo Mendes and Niepoort.

In the extremely affordable zone, Gazela is also tasty. Buy the most recent vintage - 2012, right now - chill the bottles down well, locate some shellfish, and your day is made.

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Private personal training Long Island

    I love Cline Cellars Zinfandel. It's so good. about $20 a bottle thou. Still not to bad.

    January 28, 2014 at 10:37 am |
  2. Maggie Cleveland

    Casal Garcia is one of my favorite summer wines, and is only about $6/bottle.

    July 17, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  3. Jillana Nadine Miller

    Perfect for summer! Do a glass with this

    July 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  4. Lauren

    After visiting Portugal this spring, my boyfriend and I fell in LOVE with Alvarinho. Then we come home to Northern California and find it difficult to find. I think if more people just had a chance to try it, it would be more popular than chardonnay (granted I don't like Chard, so I am biased.)

    One that we tried smelled of guava and passion fruit, but was low in sugar and alcohol. A VERY refreshing wine and perfect for the summer.

    July 15, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  5. kjskollection

    Reblogged this on kjskollection and commented:
    Sounds perfect! How good can I be this week in order to enjoy my favorite indulgence relatively guilt free?

    July 15, 2013 at 9:53 am |
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