When it comes to summer sippers, nothing screams sunshine more than Vinho Verde, the signature table wine of Portugal.
Translated as “green wine” Vinho Verde is not actually green in color, so don’t go pouring it on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s called green because of its youthfulness when consumed, which enhances its reputation for being bright, fresh, fruity and slightly effervescent.
What I love about Vinho Verde is its relatively low alcohol, usually between 8 – 12%. That you can drink more of it without getting smashed is a big deal in the heat of the season. Also, the wine is meant to be served very cold.
Vinho Verde is not a varietal, but a style of wine that originated in the Minho area of Portugal. It can be red, white, rose, sparkling, late harvest and even brandy, but the Vinho Verde I like is either white or rosé.
Grapes used in the white blends include Alvarinho, Azal, Arinto, Avesso, and Azal, Loureiro, and Trajadura. Try naming them five times fast.
White Vinho Verde has a special place on the table alongside fishy or spicy dishes. Recently, I had a chance to sample some excellent Vinho Verde’s that have yet to hit the BC market, but they might be available in your area.
Since opening their first Vij’s in 1994, restauranteurs Vikram Vij and his wife Meeru Dhalwala have revolutionized Indian cuisine with a style that combines traditional Indian spices and techniques with local ingredients. They have authored cookbooks together and Vij is now an international media star.
Spicy Indian food is the perfect compliment to crispy Vinho Verde. Or, visa-versa.
We were guided through the Vinho Verde wine and food pairing by Iain Philip of Barbarian Wine, a Senior Wine Instructor at the Art Institute in Vancouver.
We started with the 2015 Via Latina Loureiro made with 100% Loureiro. It was zingy and fresh tasting with notes of lemon, lime and apples, yet had a smooth, seductive finish.
The aperitif was called Punjabi Heart Attack! It’s a mix of spicy cashews, Paneer cheese, sugar, and chilies lightly sautéed in cream and ghee (clarified butter). Rich and flavorful, and slightly sweet, it was a filling opener.
That was paired with the 2014 Quinta Da Aveleda, a huge wine producer in Portugal. This wine is a small production blend of estate-grown Loureiro and Alvarinho grapes. The aroma is bright floral and citrus and it’s very dry and somewhat savory on the palate with a juicy, acidic finish. Perfect for matching with the cashews and for cleansing the palate of the creaminess.
The appetizer was stewed Coconut Curried Vegetables on fried rice. Coconut is always a welcome addition to anything spicy and it made the beans and eggplant really sing in this dish.
With it, the 2014 Quinta de Azevedo added a touch of sweetness to offset heat of the curry. Produced by wine giant Sogrape, this wine is made with Loureiro and Pedernã grapes. With a big nose of orange blossoms and minerals, the mouth has a bit of fizz and a touch of salinity and it finishes clean, fresh and lively. 11% alcohol.
For our main, we had grilled sable fish in yogurt-tomato broth on navy bean and onion Masala. The fish was velvety perfection and the sauce cut a wide swath of flavor and texture.
With it, the 2015 Pluma Alvarinho could swing its weight in the right direction. As the richest of the Vinho Verdes, the Pluma showed high alcohol at 11.5%. It had a lovely stone fruit, peachy quality, but was also very dry. So perfect for the fish.
For dessert, we enjoyed a sweet almond rice pudding. The texture was soft and creamy and felt super satisfying going down
The 2015 Tapada do Marques 100% Arinto it was paired with had a rather shy nose, but a smoothly textured mouthfeel. The notes of white fruit and melon and slightly sweet finish meshed well with the nutty flavors of the pudding.
Before we left, the crowd made its way to the roof of Vij’s to see the new patio there. I loved the mix of stone, tile, metal and wood, and under one of those umbrellas I can see myself sipping a cool, summery Vinho Verde. That is, if I can ever get in for dinner.
If you go: Vij’s new location is located in Vancouver’s Cambie Village area, just 5 minutes from the downtown core. 3106 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada 604.736.6664. Dinner served from 5:30pm on a first come first serve basis. We do not accept reservations. It is not uncommon to have line up for the first seating starting at 5pm outside. Open 7 days a week
Happy 4th of July to my American friends and family!