Casa de Vila Verde Vinho Verde 2005 Tasting Notes
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Casa de Vila Verde Vinho Verde 2005 Tasting Notes

Vinho Verde and Port are produced in adjoining regions of northern Portugal, yet it is difficult to visualize two wines that have less in common. The Vinho is called “Verde,” “Green,” because of its youth, not because of its color. Red Vinho Verde is enjoyed locally, but internationally the name almost always connotes a light-colored, very dry, acidic style of simple country wine. More than 50,000, perhaps up to 100,000 small farmers produce the grapes, often on minuscule plots, mixed in with many other crops, trellised in every which way up trees, fences, telephone poles and the sides of houses. The resulting production is immense and the variety of wines significant.

Much Vinho Verde is non-vintage commodity wine, but over the past several decades a number of organized wine estates have gone into Vinho Verde production with some real focus. Casa de Vila Verde is one of them; it is located in the Penafiel area in the southern range of the Vinho Verde D.O.C., not far from the famous Port city of Oporto. Though they produce an Alvarinho version (generally associated with the northern part of the region by the border with Spain's Rias Baixas in Galicia), this $9 Vinho Verde uses traditional Trajadura, Loureiro and Arinto grapes, resulting in a lighter (11.5% vs. 12.5% alcohol for the Alvarinho) version of the wine. The grapes are fermented entirely in stainless steel.

The Casa de Vila Verde is a light lemony green in color, clean and light on the nose; I found the nose somewhat tight, yielding little in the way of the usual fruit notes, though I sensed a floral freshness. On the tongue the entirely dry wine is somewhat tingly, with ripe lime, lemon, peach, a touch of sweet mango, and more of the floral. Vinho Verde's reputation for sassy acidity does not come through on this wine, and yet it is fresh as a wine can be. The fruit and floral complements work to make the wine extremely drinkable, with an excellent mouth feel and subtleties of texture that make up for the lack of expected acidity. That is the interesting, inherently aromatic Loureiro (literally, “laurel scented”) grape speaking. At the mercy of four people (one of whom described the wine, in complimentary terms, as “wet”), this wine did not last very long.

I was tempted, and then resisted the temptation, to call for more acid in this wine. The fruity acidity I had in mind would have acted to bring the wine down to a lower common denominator, steamrollering out the delicate and yet simple fragrance that makes the wine so satisfying. The better way to look at the question is to push the issue of acidity aside and look into other areas of value. In the case of this Vinho Verde, the tactic worked. The wine presents an easy youth as is expected, and yet delivers a welcome depth on aromatic and tactile levels.

Verdict: Fresh, Crisp and “Wet”
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White wines may well run a special risk of stylistic conformity, and yet they so often yield pleasant surprises that it is folly to prejudge.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


Portuguese Vinho Verde grapevines
Portugal's Vinho Verde grapevines extend in many and varied directions.

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