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Summer Wine Review Part 6: Rosé Vinho Verde


So enamored have I been with the Vinho Verde we’ve been drinking this summer that when we hit the wine section of the Healthy Living Market in Burlington, VT, at the start of our camping trip, I picked up a bottle of rosé Vinho Verde more or less on instinct. Yes, it was a rosé: while many of us, in the States at least, automatically associate Vinho Verde with white wines such as the one I reviewed below, fully half the production in this largest of Portugese wine regions is from red grapes – though little of it, apparently, leaves the north of Portugal. What percentage of Vinho Verde is rosé I can’t tell you. What I can say is that, based on this example, there should be that much more of it.

IMG_6378First, the caveat. Like the Mapreco reviewed below, the Aveleda Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Rosé, Portugal (NV) is not exactly complicated. Any wine that advertises itself on its front label, as if part of its vintage or regional information, as “crisp and refreshing,” is hardly looking to be put aside in someone’s cellar, or expecting to be served on the best restaurant wine lists. But it is an unusual wine. The color is a deep pink bordering on red, almost as deep as a heavyweight Tavel from the Rhône, despite containing barely 10% alcohol. The spritz (typically achieved in Vinho Verde by suppressing the malolactic fermentation and injecting carbon dioxide prior to bottling) is so pronounced that you can see the bubbles in the glass and immediately taste them on the palate. In fact, you could almost be fooled into thinking that this is a sparkling wine but for the fact that it doesn’t have any of the subtleties or complexities of decent sparklers.

No, to be honest, this looks like, smells like, and tastes like alcoholic cherryade, a “crisp and refreshing” (indeed) combination of fizz, fruit, flowers and residual sweetness that gives maximum summertime satisfaction with a relative minimum of potency. Packaged in an alcopop bottle, it would surely be a hit with underage drinkers across Britain and America. Is that a back-handed compliment? Perhaps. But I’m not alone in loving this drink and yet wondering if it actually qualifies as wine: read the opening statement on the 750ml blog, for example. Still, proof is in the purchasing: we returned to Healthy Living before our drive home to pick up another three $9 bottles. Suffice to say that in the ensuing heatwave, they’ve all disappeared already.

Turns out that my “discovery” of the rosé Vinho Verde is somewhat belated: on second visit, I noticed that the wine carried a shelf talker showing its 88pt rating from Wine Spectator. Though I don’t buy my wines based on magazine reviews, in this case I’m glad to see that the Wine Spectator celebrated the Casal Garcia for what it is: astonishingly enjoyable, markedly unusual, blatantly inexpensive wine that is perfectly in tune with late summer vibes.

PS: Casal Garcia also makes one of the more popular white Vinho Verdes – so if your local dealer sells that, ask him or her to sell the rosé as well.

PPS: Like it says on the label, serve chilled. Real chilled, like you would a white. And beware that you can drink this stuff just like it tastes, like cherryade – meaning that the low alcohol is easily canceled out by high intake. All of which makes it ideal for those late summer days when you have nowhere to go but from the lounge chair to the grill and back again.

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