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Fantastic White Mono-varietal Portuguese Wines

Do you ever have those nights when you just want something simple? When anything other than opening a package of meat and putting it directly on the grill sounds too complicated and annoying. A few nights ago, we had this exact experience, debating whether ordering Chinese food wasn’t a bad option; but instead, we opted for a simple dinner of chili lime marinated grilled chicken with a tossed salad and a white monovarietal Portuguese wine made with Verdelho. Simple. Good for watching the full moon. And ended up being one of the best no brainer meals we’ve had in awhile. Funny that!

The white grape varietal, Verdelho, is primarily known for its elaboration in Madeira wines, but is rarely talked about as a table wine varietal. I, actually associated it with the Spanish Verdejo when we first looked at the bottle, quickly learning that I wasn’t even the ballpark. It does, however, go by two other names in the Douro, Gouvieo and Vidonia, and as Madeira outside of the Iberian Peninsula. It is said to have been cultivated in Portugal since the 1400’s, but with the outbreak of Phylloxera in the 1900’s, what was once a prominent grape in Portugal was destroyed and had to be later revived by the Madeira authorities in early 1970s. Nowadays, you can find these small, acidic, oval berries with a hard golden skin in the Douro Valley, Terra do Sado region and Western France where they make dry, fruity white table wines. New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia are also experimenting with this varietal in both blends and as a monovarietal wine.

The Domingos Soares Franco Coleccao Privada 2006 Verdelho from Jose Maria da Fonseca was fabulous and really surprising. Although, we’ve both had our fair share of Portuguese wines as of recent, we’ve tasted very few from the Terras do Sado region, and I’m happy to announce that I’m already seeking out potential contenders for our next “super simple” meal. At first glance, the wine showed green. I say green because Ryan’s lime was evidently my pear, so we’re finding a compromise between the two. By the end of the evening, however, we both complimented the bright acidity and dry crisp finish that lifted the spicy, smoky chili flavors right off the tongue. The wine fresh, crisp and delicious, made even better with the full moon creeping up behind our house, casting dramatic shadows across our terrace.

The following night proceeded in much the same way as the first one did. We looked lovingly at one another around 7pm and said, “So, what’s for dinner?” When we first moved to Spain, this mentality bothered us, coming from a culture that plans their meals and eats at a “reasonable” time, but we’ve adopted to another culture and another set of norms for which we’ve come to love. Now, when dinner time arrives, if we haven’t set out an elaborate meal for the night, it’s generally last minute creations like spicy tuna pasta paired with a 2006 Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Landim Vinho Verde Camélia made with 100% Loureiro.

The Loureiro varietal is also a native Portuguese grape, but grown farther north in the upper Minho region along banks of the Lima River. This grape is also known as Loureira, Branco Redondo, Dourado(a), Marques, and may also correspond to the Loureira varietal in Galicia, Spain. What makes this particular grape interesting to me is that it is one of the main protagonists in the elaboration of white Vinho Verde wine, producing some of the perfumiest wine you’ll ever encounter. It’s characteristically described as evoking lime tree, acacia (a type of tree that produces fragrant yellow or white flowers), peach, orange and pear aromas. Loureiro is a high producing grape that is also used in both varietal wines and blends.

For two nights in a row, the wine was absolutely fantastic. Rich tropical fruits danced out of the glass and into our nose showing everything from honeysuckle to meaty white peaches. Incredibly perfumy and lush with an acidity that complimented the tuna, while tapering off to a gentle elegant finish. As the sun dipped behind the mountain, the wine altered ever so slightly, evoking stronger pear, melon and honey flavors, while still retaining that dry, crisp mouthfeel.

If you can get your hands on these vibrant Portuguese wines, fabulous! Otherwise, don’t hesitate to join us in Portugal for a customized wine experience of your own! 

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