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Vinho Verde, Portugal's green wine

During the peak of last week's blazing hot days, a friend called to ask for a wine suggestion.

"We're going out for wine and light supper after work and I think Chardonnay is too heavy -- and I'm tired of the usual Pinot Gris. What should I order?"

I gambled that there would be a few cases of Vinho Verde left in town -- and a few select bottles at her restaurant of choice. I, and she, was not disappointed.

Vinho Verde, literally "green wine," from Portugal brings freshness to the glass and refreshment to the palate.

This export from the Minho region, in the nation's northwest corner, is 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.

The good news is that it certainly refreshes on hot days. The better news is that it can be had as an end-of-season closeout for as little as $6.99

That was the price of a Vinho Verde from Twin Vines that I picked up for myself last Thursday. This Vinho Verde was a light green in color with a slight spritz of effervescent. This characteristic does not make it a sparkling wine, but attests to its freshness. A Vinho without the spritz is one that has outlived its shelf life.

On the nose it is fruity and lively. On the palate it is light (only 9.8 percent alcohol), bright and delicious.

It is very "more-ish", an English tasting term meaning that you want to drink more of it! In fact, it is so easy to drink, it's good that it's low in alcohol. The acidity is cleansing and the wine is great fun.

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 Facebook posting I made about my find prompted my friend and fellow wine geek Bubba to post back: "Try this with fresh shrimp and crab, it's delicious!"

Ask your favorite wine vendor if their Vinho Verde is shipped under refrigeration, which is key for maintaining the wine's freshness. Vinho Verde that has been chilled throughout shipping is more costly, but only about a dollar more per bottle. Average prices typically 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 enjoyed mine alongside a simple green salad with bell peppers and tomatoes, diced cold chicken and blue cheese dressing. The acidity was a nice foil to the dressing and cut the fattiness while leaving a nice citrus finish.

Let's toast the last blush of spring with Vinho Verdes -- and look forward to next season's releases!