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Now is the time to go green -- green wine, that is
Anyone for Vinho?

The last crop of Beaujolais Nouveau was disappointing to me, even if a bottle could be found. Retailers baked off fall 2010 orders in the wake of a stale economy and poor sales the prior season.

But our palates get a reprieve every spring when new Vinho Verdes begins to fill wine racks.

Vinho Verde, literally “green wine,” from Portugal that brings freshness to the glass and refreshment to the palate. This export from the Minho region, in the nation’s northwest corner, can be sourced from more than 50,000 growers. Many of these are mom and pop operators who train vines to climb walls and fences in order to have space for vegetable plantings closer to the ground.

Vinho Verde is traditionally non–vintage and consumed quickly, so the wine on the shelf should always be a fresh bottling. But why the name “green wine?” The grapes are harvested slightly under ripe to retain crisp acidity and make wines that go perfectly with the local seafood and the warm summers of Portugal.

A trio of specifically chosen grapes make up traditional Vinho Verde: Loureiro adds aroma, Trajadura gives body and Padern  lends acidity.

Ask your favorite wine vendor if their Vinho Verde is shipped under refrigeration – which is key for maintaining the wine’s freshness. Vinho Verdes that have been chilled all along the route are more costly – but only about a dollar more per bottle. It’s an investment that well worth it. Average prices range from $9–$11.

Sip this well–chilled by itself or pair with salads, grilled fish, shrimp or scallops or grilled chicken. Its refreshing characteristics will also go nicely with spicy foods like barbecue – or even lighter Asian dishes.

I found these Vinho Verde examples on Savannah retail shelves:

Gatao Vinho Verde: The ’freshest” I found on local shelves, the wine is a vivid, sharp refreshing untested wine as a Vinho Verde should be. Soft apple, peach pit and honey essences with non herbal tones and spritzy citrus fruit. Don’t be put off by the cat on the label.

Vinha Real Vinho Verde: Crisp, fresh and nicely effervescent, it’s another from the new crop.
Quinta da Lixa Vinho Verde: This Portuguese beauty is refreshing and was the perfect foil for a savory antipasti plate I enjoyed at Leoci’s while tasting.

2008 Quinta da Avelada: Yeah, it’s an ’08, but still drinks very nice. Crisp, citrusy and nicely acidic, it still shows mild effervescence and all the proper Vinho Verde characteristics.

2008 Twin Vine Vinho Verde: This may be the price leader in the group, I found it for $4.99 at Habersham Beverage in Midtown. In ’08, this was a winner at nearly twice the money. For this kinda price, buy it up and serve it at your first big backyard party of the year.


Madeira madness...

Two things: Savannah Verdelho Madeira is from The Rare Wine Co. –– I spaced on the name in a previous column. And, I’m happy to report that Hugh Golson confirmed that the Savannah Madeira Society, despite many scholarly reports, is alive and well and tasting great Madeiras on a frequent basis.