Aug. 24, 2012 at 2:23 PM ET
For me, there can never be enough crisp white wines on hand -- sauvignon blancs and chenin blancs from the Loire Valley, rieslings from the Finger Lakes or Alsace, pinot grigios and many others from Italy, to name just a few that quickly come to mind.
And now, after a recent tasting, I’ll add to the mix some of the white wines of Portugal’s Vinho Verde region. The area in the northwest corner of the country has often been dismissed as a repository of inexpensive, inoffensive and inconsequential low-alcohol wines. And that is certainly part of what defines Vinho Verde (the name means “green wine”).
However, another Vinho Verde story deserves to be told -- the one about the region’s more distinctive wines, most of them made from alvarinho, the most important variety and the same grape as albarino in Spain. Two of those listed below are blended with trajadura, another indigenous variety.
Like many other white wines, these better Vinhos Verdes need some time to open up. When they do (and as they warm up a bit after opening), they start to reveal their dimension and their charm. With relatively moderate alcohol levels of 12 percent or so, they are not only refreshing on their own but are also excellent food wines to enjoy with aperitifs, fish, chicken, shellfish and salads.
The 2011 Vera Alvarinho, $16, is refreshing and complex with tastes of green apple, apple skin, some lime and orange as well as exotic spices, especially cardamom, and a creamy finish. It was great with broiled flounder fillets. Imported by Obrigado Vinhos Portugal, Sausalito, Calif.
I also liked the Passaros 2011 Alvarinho-Trajadura blend, which is citrussy with lemon, lime and orange, green apple and a white pepper note. It’s light and easy to drink and a bargain at $12. Imported by Wine In-Motion, Union, N.J.
Another notable blend is Varanda do Conde’s 2010 Alvarinho-Trajadura, which is lemony, uncomplicated and refreshing with a good deal of minerality. Also $12, it reminded me of Muscadet from the Loire Valle and was perfect with a grilled chicken salad on a warm afternoon. Imported by Admiral Imports, Cedar Grove, N.J.
Want more suggestions? On Vint-ed this week, I review a superb $20 California red blend from Beckmen Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County.
More from TODAY Food: