Magazine article Sunset

"Green Wine" Grows Up

Magazine article Sunset

"Green Wine" Grows Up

Article excerpt

Portugal's Vinho Verde is claiming more space on wine shelves here, but it's not all the spritzy sipper of legend. By Sara Schneider

FIFTEEN SUMMERS ago, I joined friends for a week on the coast of Portugal. Almost before we dropped our bags, we hit markets in search of crisp white wine, and we fell in love with Vinho Verde. The wines, named after the region in northwest Portugal where the grapes grow, were lightly fizzy, bright and minerally, under 10 percent alcohol-and cheap. Before long, we were engaged in a how-low-can-we-go game, happily guzzling $5, $4, $3 bottles.

Recently I returned to Portugal-to Vinho Verde itself-and I hardly recognized many of the wines. Unlike the traditional style, meant to be drunk young ("Vinho Verde," or "green wine," refers to freshness and youth), these seemed more mature and complex. Many lacked the spritz I remembered, and they were riper, with upward of 12 and even 13 percent alcohol. They were full of the gorgeous stone fruit and citrus flavors of their main grape, Alvarinho (called Albariño in neighboring Spain). In short, these were serious wines that invited me to think, not just swill. Apparently, winemakers are chasing modem international taste. (Not a bad thing- I fell in love all over again.)

The effort seems to be paying off in the United States: In the decade ending in 2013, Vinho Verde imports to this country increased more than 250 percent. My recent fact-finding missions to local shops turned up bottles in a range of styles, and not all white. My favorites, at right, ran the gamut, but they're all delicious, all amazing values. …

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