Posted by: tomciocco | May 21, 2011

WHY GREEN WINE IS BOTH WHITE AND RED

Just a little poetic license for the sake of the title…When I wrote  “green” wine up there, I was refering specifically to the Portuguese wine Vinho Verde (VEEN-yoo Verd) which translates directly into English as “Green Wine”. Vinho Verde is one of the Portuguese wines almost everyone knows of or has had: usually bottled in tall,thin, deeply tinted bottles, spritzy, fresh, low alcohol and white. All true facts with one small addition, and that would be the inclusion of the word “red” alongside the word “white”.

It just doesn’t seem right, right? The white version even shows a greenish tinge against all the the frothy bubbles. Well, it turns out that what the word “verde” refers to in Portuguese, at least with reference to this wine, speaks not about color but rather about “age” – green as in young and un-aged. And indeed all of the wines made here in Portugal’s chilly northern extreme are made to be drunk within a couple of years of the vintage date.

Until recently, red Vinho Verde was unheard of and unavailable outside heavily Portuguese communities (I’m fortunate enough to live just a short car or train ride from Newark’s Ironbound Portuguese neighborhood) and let’s face it, it isn’t now, nor will it ever be Pinot Grigio or Cabernet Sauvignon, though I have seen it popping up at a few places here and there, and that makes me feel better about the state of the market in general…If I had to shorthand sketch red Vinho Verde to an uninitiated drinker, I’d describe it as a less bubbly, slightly lighter bodied Lambrusco. And like Lambrusco, red Vinho Verde (made primarily from the Azal, Espadeiro, and Vinhao grape varieties by the way) pairs well with almost any food, and it’s a mythical match with bacalhau (salt cod), so who was I to shatter the myth? I served this fun but in no way simple wine with an Alentejo-style chick pea and spinach soup scented with cilantro and marjoram, and then Bacalhau a la Portuguesa – flaked and baked crisp in layers with potatoes, garlic, parsley, and a thickened paprika and nutmeg cream-based sauce, with a green salad on the side, and some nice padinha bread throughout…

Adega Cooperativa Regiao de Moncao Vinho Verde Tinto “Danaide” 2009

Deep, opaque crimson color. Exotic/rustic nose of blackberries,  sap, black walnuts, cocoa powder, black pepper, dried mint, and grass. The palate is medium-bodied, dry, tart, and minerally, but balanced with smooth and sweet wild raspberry and sour cherry fruit, and deep flavors of humus, cloves, and dried rose petals in a very big and cohesive structure for the overall scale of the wine.

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