Epicurean Muse: Take a walk on the green side with this light and fragrant wine


By Kim Kelly

Happy Spring!  While we’ve already had several spring-like starts over the past few months, it’s officially here. It’s looking more promising every day with all of the colorful new growth, birds singing, and bud break in the vineyards.  As we embrace warm sunshine and longer days I think Robin Williams summed it up – “Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘Let’s party!’”  It’s the perfect excuse to gather up friends and family to plan a feast and celebrate.  Whether it’s Easter, Passover or just an occasion to spend great quality time with loved ones, and no feast is complete without wine.

One of my favorite crowd pleasing white wines for spring and summer is Vinho Verde from Portugal.  The name literally translates to “green or young wine,” indicating the wine should be consumed while it’s fresh and young.  It’s perfectly suited for this ultra green time of year.

Vinho Verde is not a grape variety but a region of northwest Portugal largely comprised of the area traditionally known as Minho and named after the Minho River which defines the border between Portugal and Galicia, Spain. It is the largest DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) region in Portugal stretching from the Spanish border to south of Oporto. The region is cool and wet with 59 inches plus/minus of annual rainfall, creating a vine growing challenge and some unorthodox growing techniques such as vines growing vertically around poles.  However, the granitic soil type and Atlantic Coast climate provide outstanding conditions to cultivate high quality vineyards capable of producing outstanding red and and rosé wines in addition to the traditional Vinho Verde.

Part of the perceived freshness in Vinho Verde is the trademark spritz or effervescence that comes from suppressing the malolactic fermentation and sometimes injecting carbon dioxide during bottling. Like much of Portugal, the area is undergoing a true wine renaissance. New estates, excellent winemakers and new modern winery facilities are advancing the quality in traditional styles and paving the way for innovation in new styles. While 25 grapes are allowable, the primary grapes used for Vinho Verde are arinto, avarinho, trajadura and loureiro and typically the wine is produced with a combination of grapes.

It really is the perfect white wine for your Spring feast and especially good with a traditional Easter ham or matzo ball soup.  Most Vinho Verdes are lower in alcohol, making them great for a sunny afternoon of entertaining.  Generally, you can expect it to be dry, fresh and fragrant with pretty floral aromas of pear blossoms and white peach.  The flavors are citrusy, as in lime and green apple, with vibrant acidity. Best of all, prices are super reasonable, making it very worthy of stocking up for the season.  Cheers to Spring!

Kim Kelly is the owner of Vinosity in Downtown Culpeper. She can be reached at info@culpeperwines.com