Vinho verde, a perfect summer wine


Vinho verde is the essence of summer in a bottle. Light and palatable with a touch of effervescence, it's as perfect for hot summer nights as it is for a day on the pontoon. Drink it with lighter fare or on its own, as an aperitif. You don't need to be a wine snob to appreciate how fun this is to drink.

"Vinho verde" literally means "green wine" -- but not because of its color. "It refers to the fact that it's drunk young, and not meant to be aged," says Terrence French, wine consultant for Surdyk's Liquor. You don't want to cellar this kind, according to French.

Made from a blend of any number of grape varietals indiginous to Portugal, in the northern regions of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, it's fruity and spritzy, to varying degrees. The less spritzy it is, the more complex the flavors become.

The effervescence is supposed to come from the still-active yeast (because of how young it is), but the presence of yeast makes the wine cloudy, which doesn't fly with foreign markets, says French. So, most vinho verdes available in the U.S. are clear and have carbon dioxide pumped into them to ensure the fizziness they're known for.  "It feels like cheating, but it makes a wine more palatable to a foreign audience," says French.

Ready to relish the remaining days of summer? Here are four bottles worth pouring:

  1. Casa de Vila Verde
    Slightly fizzy and a little more serious than other vinho verdes, with strong albarino leanings. $9.99 at Surdyk's Liquor.
  2. Famega
    Very light in color and body, it's dry but still fruity. $6.49 on special at Surdyk's Liquor; $7.99 regularly.
  3. Gazela
    Almost interchangeable with Famega, it's also a supremely drinkable bottle with light, fruity flavors and that signature bubbly quality. $4.99 on special at Surdyk's Liquor; $5.99 regularly.
  4. Pavao
    Light and dry with lots of citrusy notes. $7.99 at Chet's Wine & Brewsky

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