VINHO VERDE – St. Patrick’s Day Wine

Top o’ the mornin’ to ye lads and lassies! Tomorrow we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that marks the death of Ireland’s beloved patron saint. Many public parades mark the occasion and GREEN clad revelers sporting shamrocks will flock to local pubs to imbibe that St. Paddy’s Day libation of choice – GREEN beer.

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But for some of us wine aficionados who aren’t particularly fond of beer, this is a holiday that can truly “ale” us. What’s an oenophile to do short of artificially dying wine GREEN? I propose the perfect alternative. Vinho Verde!

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Vinho Verde (pronounced VEEN-yo VEHR-deh) literally means “GREEN wine”. This light, slightly effervescent white wine from Portugal is not literally GREEN in color. Rather, it’s a young wine mean to be drunk soon after it is made, ideally within a year. Vinho Verde hails from the Minho region of Portugal which lies in the northwestern corner of the country. This is the coolest, wettest and GREENEST part of Portugal ideal for producing highly acidic white wine.

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Taking the GREEN theme a bit farther, just north of the Minho region and across the border into Spain lies the Galicia region. This area is known as GREEN Spain, also the coolest, lushest and most verdant part of that country. Both areas are idea for growing the grapes alvarinho/albariño, trajadura/treixadura and loureiro/loureira, three of the twenty-five grape varieties used in making Vinho Verde.

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With an alcohol content averaging just 10% and a slight fizziness that comes from malolactic fermentation that takes place within the bottle, Vinho Verde is a veritable vinous substitute for foamy beer. It’s light enough for bigger gulping and celebratory in its bubbliness. Its aroma blossoms in an effusive bouquet of GREEN: lime zest, GREEN apple and honey dew melon. Its lively acidity makes it an ideal food-pairing wine, the perfect palate cleanser between bites of corned beef, cabbage, and buttery potatoes.

Here’s one more GREEN fact about Vinho Verde. It won’t cost you much GREEN. You can easily find bottles of it well under $10. About this time of year, when winter melts into spring and folks look forward to warm weather alfresco dining, you’ll see Vinho Verde advertised on sale. I purchased a dozen bottles last year for just under $60. Another plus: many Vinho Verde bottles sport screw tops. Not only is this an added convenience for picnics and patio dining, but screw caps virtually eliminate the risk of cork taint.

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So as beer lovers chug-a-lug their mugs of green glug on March 17th, we wine lovers have the perfect St. Patty’s Day prerogative. We will celebrate by pouring a GREEN  wine from a GREEN region loaded with GREEN flavors that didn’t set us back much GREEN.

Vinho Verde just might make beer lovers GREEN with envy!

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