Budget Week: In for the Night

*This week you’ll be getting the 411 on some inexpensive wines and their easy, every day pairings.

2012 Arca Nova Vinho Verde

2012 Arca Nova Vinho Verde

The older we get, the less we cringe when we hear or say the words, we’re – “in for the night.” And more often ‘late in the evening’ seems to come, well … more and more earlier.

This time of year when the night air is just right and the outside light persists much longer, it’s all the excuse we need to swap a night out on the town for a night on the patio.

My choice for such an evening remains Vinho Verde. The 2012 Arca Nova Vinho Verde contains that sprightly dazzling effervescence that the wine is well-known for without the heavy, often headache inducing amount you get from some all-out sparkling wines. Comprised of a blend of Portuguese grapes like Treixadura, Loureiro, and Arinto, the Arca Nova resembles an old school lemon/lime spritzer sans the sweetness.

Its approachable and crisp nature cooperates well with garden fare, and I recommend (though not essential) seeking out a fresh vintage. The trapped gas in Vinho Verdes helps a little with ageing, but not much. And although the non vintage dated Vinho Verdes (a blend of multiple years) are fine, some of the brighter citrus flavor can become muted.

The 2012 Arca Nova goes for about $10, which means you’ll have all the more money saved for your next night out on the town.

Off the beaten (white wine) path

* A version of this column was originally published in Saturday’s on-line edition of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Original and interesting white wines are always emerging in the market this time of year. And this spring I’ve noticed a continued effort by winemakers, importers and distributors to move beyond the old trappings of Chardonnay and other more prolific wines into offerings of lesser-known and more curious creations. These bottlings express fresh, lighter bodied wines and include new interpretations of wines from an obscure Rhone or southern hemisphere Gewurztraminer to a pumped-up Portuguese white.

Another wine heard from

Another wine heard from

Parents, teachers, coaches will all tell you the same: you’re never done learning. So when I opened a newer label of French wine named Marc Roman Terret, I had to quickly discover more about this unfamiliar grape. Sure I knew that Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines were blended. But I had no idea that one of those grapes (sometimes used in production) is Terret. The Marc Roman bottling may be one of the few if only 100% Terret wines in the market, but you shouldn’t dismiss it.

A great all-rounder especially for hot weather drinking, the Marc Roman possesses a salty oceanic zephyr essence and a minerality that make for a natural “fruit of the sea” pairing. I highly recommend it with some fresh halibut that’s been lightly rolled and pan seared in panko crumbs before being added to a tortilla filled with coriander chutney, diced vidalias, sour cream and a hit of lime juice.

The first thing that comes to mind, when one thinks of Chilean white wines, is probably not Gewurztraminer. In fact, the more popular locale for such a wordy wine is the old world strip of land between Germany and France known as Alsace. Still, the 2011 Miquel Torres Santa Digna Gewurztraminer is a surprising effort for a wine that’s not grown extensively in the southern hemisphere.

Southern Hemisphere G-Wine

Southern Hemisphere G-Wine

A minimal touch of sweetness, a cleansing finish and a mouth-full of stone fruit flavor make this wine a natural sparring partner for spicier food. Almost universally recommended with fiery Asian cuisine, Gewurztraminer like the Miquel Torres also matches up nicely with some plump gulf shrimp combined with buttery grits and spicy Andouille sausage.

I’ve often referred to the Portuguese wine known as Vinho Verde as a lite-beer lover’s wine. Its lower alcohol content, slight fizz and lighter body position a Vinho Verde to be a simpler white wine, that is both refreshing and easy-drinking. What I like most about my new favorite version, the Conde Villar Vinho Verde, is that it goes a step beyond the typical green-apple notes of the wine.

Recently, I blogged about the Conde Villar’s tropical tendencies. After an unexpected but ephemeral whiff of cotton candy aromas, the Conde Villar Vinho Verde exposes its equatorial inclination with some softened pineapple and guava flavors. Perhaps the quintessential pairing to most spring-fresh green salads, the Vinho Verdes like the Conde Villar also couple-up nicely with a plate of seasonal fruits from strawberries and pineapple to cantaloupe and honeydew.

What to take: Conde Villar Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde: Green wine is beach wine

Vinho Verde: Green wine is beach wine

“I came to the sea to see; the future, the past, the magnificent sea.” – Anonymous

Our annual trek to Saint George Island off Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” yielded several discoveries of beach appropriate wines, including the Conde Villar Vinho Verde. Vinho Verde (or green wine) remains the most widely known Portuguese white wine. A blend of several indigenous Portuguese grapes, the wine is meant to be consumed young thus obtaining its “green” moniker. And quite often, Vinho Verdes will have similar styles and characteristics comprising of a lower alcohol content, a slight fizz and a mineral-laden flavor profile.

Although the Conde Villar follows this pattern, it also possesses a little more depth of flavor and complexity than your run-of-the-mill Vinho Verde. With a quick flash of cotton candy aroma and a low-key pineapple/ guava essence, the Conde Villar Vinho Verde adds a little of that tropical note that makes the salty air, the soft sands and the sea front views all the more fitting.

Drink this: Fâmega Vinho Verde

The owner of Woodland Wine Merchants in Nashville, Tennessee first introduced me to one of my two favorite Vinho Verdes, the Fâmega. Made from a mélange of Portuguese white wines, Fâmega is slightly fizzy with aromas of lemon aioli and green pear. Keep in mind that Vinho Verdes shouldn’t cost anymore than $7-$9. Serve this one extra cold and enjoy its spirited citrus character throughout this insanely torrid summer.

Portuguese pride starts with Vinho Verde

The pride of Portuguese winemaking may gravitate around world-renowned vintage ports but for simple, everyday consumption that pride really starts with Vinho Verde. Translated as “green wine” Vinho Verde is just that, young in age, green in maturation and quite often not even vintage dated. Historically one of the cheaper whites wines that can be found from Europe, Vinho Verde has often been narrowly perceived as tart-like wine with little fruit. There are definitely reasons why labels like this one have survived. However, judging from the recent crop of Vinho Verdes that are coming our way, there is sufficient evidence to prove that that stereotype is just too simple-minded.

n Casal Garcia Vinho Verde by Aveleda ($8.55): Casal Garcia does for Vinho Verde what the “High Life” does for beer. Specifically, it’s a crisp, un-muddled white that is slightly effervescent. If Miller High Life is the “Champagne of Beers,” then Casal Garcia is the thirst-quenching version of Vinho Verdes. The light, bubbly feeling of Casal Garcia bounces on the tongue, stays true to its straightforward, focused nature and finishes with soft green apple notes.

Casal Garcia by Aveleda is so clean, clear and refreshing that it’s void of some typical mineral notes. A low alcohol of only 10 percent makes this white Portuguese wine an easy pushover, and its beautiful light blue bottle is a perfect centerpiece for an outdoor summer dinner under your favorite apple tree.

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