Casal Garcia Vinho Verde

Have I got some catching up to do!  Although the weather here in my area is turning frosty and gray, I drank this light white blend while it was still fairly warm.  Better late than never, I suppose.

Winemaker:  Aveleda Vinhos S.A.
Wine:  Casa Garcia Vinho Verde
Varietal:  White Blend
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Vinho Verde DOC, Portugal
Price:  $6.49 at Total Wine

Notes:  The color of this wine was a pale citron.  In the bouquet I detected gentle scents of tart peach.  It was light-bodied with the expected fizz (which settles quickly).  Alcohol was at 10%, and acidity was good.  On the tongue I caught flavors of peach, citrus and a light floral note.  Remembering the experience as I type this post makes me imagine myself sipping it once more … on a sweltering tropical beach.  Not to worry, though, it will be sweltering here again soon enough.

An Effervescent White For A Summer’s Night

According to the Vinho Verde official website, the main consumers of wines from this region are women under 40.  Well, I am not a part of that demographic, but I went ahead and bought this inexpensive bottle of white anyway.

This Espiral was only my second Vinho Verde experience.  My first was with the Twin Vines iteration of a white blend from this region by Fonseca.  Both have been enjoyable.  And while there were definite similarities in the Espiral and Twin Vines offerings, there were also distinct differences.  No doubt those differences stem at least in part from the choices made regarding the specific grapes and relative proportions used in blending the wines.

Winemaker:  Espiral
Wine:  Vinho Verde
Varietal:  White Blend
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Vinho Verde, Portugal DOC
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The color of the Espiral was an extremely pale yellow.  On the nose I caught scents of grapefruit, copious grass, and a hint of almond.  As is the norm for these wines, it was frothy on the pour.  The wine was light-bodied, and the bubbles had surprising staying power.  (Those bubbles are evidently added carbonation which takes the place of effervescence that was historically present as a result of in-bottle malolactic fermentation.)  Acidity was bright and alcohol was at 9%.  You’d think with alcohol that low, the the wine would be distinctly sweet.  Not so.  On the palate it actually seemed fairly dry.  Perhaps the grape varietals used just don’t have that much sugar to begin with.  At any rate, this light Portuguese white had a pleasant flavor profile with a core of peach, citrus and grass accented by almond and floral notes.  I think it would make a nice aperitif for a summer dinner party – especially one on the patio or around the pool.

Tuella Douro Vinho Tinto 2011

This intriguing red blend from Portugal is made with Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão grapes.  Touriga Franca (or Touriga Francesa) is one of the major grape varieties used to produce port wine.  Touriga Franca is lighter and more perfumed than Touriga Nacional, adding finesse to the Port.  I’m assuming that’s why it’s used here as well.  Tinta Barroca is a Portuguese red wine grape that is grown primarily in the Douro region with some plantings in South Africa where the only single varietal Tinta Barroca wines are produced.  Wine-searcher.com tells us when used for single varietal wines, the result is “… intense, super-ripe, and high-alcohol.”  In Portugal, it is also a common blending grape in Port wine.  Finally, Tinta Cão is a wine grape variety that has been grown primarily in the Douro region since the sixteenth century and is yet another of the 50 approved grape varietals used in the production of Port.  According to winegeeks.com, “When grown at higher elevations Tinta Cão can have an intensely floral and spicy aroma with hints of black cherries and Christmas spices ….”

For my own experimentation’s sake, I am going to have to look for the single varietal wines from Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca.  Seems Tinto Cão is perhaps only used in blended reds.   That may be due in part to it’s typically low crop yields.  If you have a favorite Touriga Franca or Tinta Barroca you’d recommend, please drop me a note.  For now, I will have to content myself with experiencing these three varietals together.

Winemaker:  Tuella by Symington Family Estates
Wine:  Douro Vinho Tinto
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Douro, Portugal DOC
Price:  $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  When I poured this Vinho Tinto into my glass, I got a beaker full of inky purple.  The bouquet brought me blackberry, spices, earth, and wood fragrances.  The body of this red table wine was light.  I would peg it’s acidity at medium and the tannins at the upper end of medium.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  On the palate I tasted leather, blackberry, plum, and oak with notes of coffee grounds and pepper.  The solid tannins brought a bite of menthol, and it finished off with a repeat of stewed plums and spice.  Overall a pretty decent wine experience pulled from the budget selections – especially if you want your red wine to bite back a tad.  It had a rustic feel to it, which seems appropriate for a table wine.  This is not one to accompany your filet mignon, but it’ll be fine with casual meat dishes or perhaps some hearty cozinha país (country cuisine).  Wait, did I say that right?  Well, you know what I mean – homestyle cooking not fancy fare.

J.M Fonseca Twin Vines Vinho Verde

The Vinho Verde DOC is the largest wine producing region of Portugal and is located in the area known as Minho in the upper Northwest.  While this Twin Vines selection was a white wine (from green grapes, I thought?), the term Verde is meant to denote “young” rather than the color “green.”  As a result, it seems a Vinho Verde could be red, white or rosé.  And if I wasn’t confused enough by that …  According to the folks at Fonseca,  “Vinho Verde is made from one or a combination of twenty five different white grapes.  The best and most popular varieties are Alvarinho, Trajadura, Louriro and Pederña.”  The good people over at winesofportugal.com, on the other hand, indicate that the “Main white grapes (varying according to sub-region) [are] Alvarinho, Arinto Avesso, Azal, Loureiro and Trajadura.”  They go on to say the “Main red grapes (varying according to sub-region) [are] Alvarelhão, Amaral, Borraçal, Espadeiro, Padeiro, Pedral, Rabo de Anho and Vinhão.”  Unfortunately, neither the bottle nor the Fonseca website indicates which grapes were used in this Twin Vines Vinho Verde.

Winemaker:  J.M. Fonseca
Wine:  Twin Vines Vinho Verde
Varietal:  White Blend
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Vinho Verde, Portugal DOC
Price:  $7.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  The color of this Portuguese offering was a light lemon yellow.  On the nose I caught a faint scent of green apple with floral notes.  The body of this Fonseca white blend was light, acidity was good – balancing the residual sweetness nicely – and alcohol was at 10%.  On first pour, this Vinho Verde was characteristically very frothy and bubbly, although the effervescence quickly subsided.  On the tongue I tasted gentle flavors of green apple and sweet grapefruit.  As the wine traversed the palate it also brought a slight chalkiness.  On the finish I found grass, lingering grapefruit and a hint of cucumber.  This selection was a nice surprise for me.  Not being well versed in Portuguese wines, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Especially since, unlike previous iterations of Twin Vines, this was a non-vintage bottling.  And given the lack of specifics, I’m still not certain exactly what I had.   But that’s OK.  I guess it’ll remain one of life’s little mysteries …  unless someone out there can enlighten me.

Lello Douro Vinho Tinto 2010

Lello Douro Vinho Tinto is made from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca grapes that come from producers in the Cima Corgo and Douro Superior sub-regions of the Douro River Valley in Portugal.  Although the Douro Valley region is most famous for another fermented grape product (Port/Porto), it produces quite a bit of non-fortified wine as well.  The history of wine production in the area goes back a number of years.  Archaeologists have discovered evidence of wine-making as early as the 3rd century AD.  This modern example is from a label in the Vinhos Borges stable of wines, Lello, which was evidently relaunched in 2006.

Winemaker:  Lello (by Vinhos Borges)
Wine:  Douro Vinho Tinto
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2010
Appellation:  Douro, Portugal DOC
Price:  $8.99 at Whole Foods ($4.99 for 375 ml)

Notes:  The color of this Portuguese red blend was a dark garnet.  In the bouquet I smelled berries and a dustiness.  It was a light-weight offering (not a pejorative comment here) with good acidity and moderate tannins.  Flavors for me were bright cherry with raspberry notes, plenty of oak, a dash of pepper, and hints of sweet tobacco.  On the finish I found some dustiness and a slight touch of carob.  Alcohol is 13%.  When first opened, the oak was overbearing.  But with some time to breathe, it settled nicely.  I haven’t had many Portuguese wines.  That’s one of the things that attracted me to this Lello.  This vinho tinto made a good enough impression to ensure I’ll be back for more in the future.

If you’re looking at the photo and thinking the proportions might be just a little off — that’s because this is a picture of the 375 ml bottle.  Both the 750 and 375 ml bottles were available at Whole Foods.  Given that I wanted to taste it but didn’t have a group of friends coming over that evening, I grabbed the smaller bottle.  I think it’s a great option for folks who just want a couple of glasses of vinho.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.