Elin McCoy's Wine of the Week
2009 Varanda do Conde Vinho Verde
Region: Minho, Portugal
Grape: 70 percent alvarinho, 30 percent trajadura
Alcohol: 12 percent
Serve with: Seafood -- especially shellfish
Portugal’s vinho verde (literally, “green wine”) is that country’s water-white, prickly-tart picnic favorite, best served stone-cold. At less than 10 percent alcohol, it can be knocked back with abandon.
Vinho verde is not a wine category usually associated with memorable bottlings. But the 2009 Varanda do Conde is on another level, straw-colored, with a tickling slight effervescence that underscores sappy-tart acidity and bright, citrusy, lingering fruit. This is sheer deliciousness in the glass, cracklingly crisp, and gulpably appetizing.
The wine’s pinpoint balance and surprising depth derive from the blend of alvarinho and trajadura grapes, grown in the sub-region of Monção and Megaço in the Minho region of northwest Portugal. Atlantic winds keep temperatures mild and the atmosphere damp. There are some 30,000 small growers in this green landscape of sloping hills that stretches from south of Oporto to the Spanish border. They train vines on trellises, and even drape them on trees or fences, a traditional viticultural practice that allows additional crops to be grown on the ground below — and which diminishes the chance of rot.
Provam, a large modern co-op in Monção, bottles the Varanda do Conde. The company produces a line of wines from the harvests of its grower-partners (25 percent); the bulk of the production is made from grapes purchased from local growers.
Drink this vinho verde when it’s young and fresh. The bright, cutting acidity makes it perfect with shellfish, especially oysters, although one traditional match is grilled sardines and lemon. I reveled in this wine alongside sea scallops sautéed with baby bok choy. It seems destined for outdoor dining, especially on decks or beaches by the sea.
Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”