Thursday, June 25, 2009

Vinho Verde's RED WINE

Best known for slightly fizzy, lime inflected, simple, thirst quenching, warm weather white wine quaffers, northern Portugal's Vinho Verde DOC actually produces a sizable amount of red wine as well (at one point the figure stood at nearly 50% of the region's total production). Hardly any of it reaches the US, primarily due to the high demand for this style of wine in the region, as well as the unusual, raspingly tart flavor profile.

Upon tasting my first red ('tinto' as its called there) vinho verde, I knew that I had a new unusual summer red to enjoy, and additionally that I had to stock it in the store. According to one of our Portuguese wine suppliers, world reknowned food and wine guru Darrell Corti is the only other retailer to stock the wine in northern California, so I guess that puts me in pretty good company.

The wine in question here is the Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Tinto, produced by the large Quinta de Aveleda winery. They sell boat loads of their reliably tasty, dry quinta label vinho verde, but I'm curious as to how many cases of the tinto get exported. I can't imagine it being much more than 500 cases, which for a winery whose production is well into the hundreds of thousands, is a tiny amount. Produced primarily from Vinhão grapes, as well as from some Azal Tinto, this wine is an odd bird. The color is shockingly deep and dark purple for what one might expect out of a wine with 10% alcohol. Barnyard like aromas on the nose combine with some savory cherry fruit, all leading to a slightly petillant, edgy palate of red berries, cherries and a bit of brett, finishing with appealingly dry, rustic tannins. Unlike 99.9% of red wine out there, this one probably did not go through malolactic fermentation. Serving this wine at cellar temperature (i.e. pop it in the fridge for 30 or so minutes) helps to highlight the high tones of the wine and reign in the funk. Though it may be described as funky, tart, cheap, or worse, I would maintain that you could do a lot worse out there. In fact, for under $10 I'd take this as a summer red over most examples of the following: anything from the new world (duh...), cotes du rhone, bordeaux, spanish garnacha, monastrell, zweigelt, sangiovese, and any other would be contenders. Granted, it's a limited field these days for interesting reds under $10.

Drink this with some hearty, flavorful food from your favorite purveyor of Michoacan style tacos. or burritos.