It was not so long ago (10 years, more or less) that the white wines of Spain started becoming well known in the USA. The Galician white wines made from the Albariño grape opened the door for numerous other Spanish white wines that have grown ever more prevalent in the ensuing years.
The white wines of Portugal have suffered a similar lack of familiarity and availability here. Aside from the light, spritzy wines from the northern Vinho Verde region, many Portuguese white wines continue to languish in obscurity.
Fortunately, more white wines from Portugal are finding their way to our shores and we can now explore a wider range of options.
Portugal’s numerous wine growing regions are home to many indigenous grape varieties that go into a broad range of unique and delicious white wines. Grape varieties such as Antão Vaz, Encruzado, Arinto and Trajadura may not yet be not yet be familiar to the American public but the wines made from these grapes are bright, lively, food friendly and easy to love.
This week we offer you a selection of newly arrived Portuguese white wines that will excite your palate, intrigue your intellect and awaken your sense of adventure for new flavors and experiences. These wines are all well priced to give you added incentive to try something new.
Please consider the following choices when investigating what may well become your next new favorite white wine.
Gazela This crowd pleasing Vinho Verde is back at a price that makes it easy to please said crowd without busting the budget. The wine displays pale yellow/green color, light texture, with classic Vinho Verde spritzy effervescence, grapefruit aroma, and flinty background minerality. $6.99
Terra Antiga 2008 Vinho Verde continues to excite us, thanks to a consistent ramp-up in quality as the years go by. This is a vintage wine (most Vinho Verde is non-vintage)made from Alvarinho and Trajadura grapes in a finely tuned style. Edgy grapefruit and mineral notes add context to tart green apple fruit character. Light effervescence ties it all together. $9.99
Alornha Arintho 2008 This Ribatejo region white made from 100% Arinto is lush and expressive. Quince aroma and green melon fruit character combine with plump texture and medium acidity. $10.99.
Quinta da Romeira Arinto 2008 The Bucelas region, just north of Lisbon, is best known for white wines made from the Arinto grape. This particular example is a medium bodied wine that displays bright yellow/gold color, ripe pineapple scent, abundant citrus fruit character and light mineral foundation. $12.99
Grilos Branco 2008 The red Grilos has been a big hit and now we just brought in the white version of this Dáo region wine. The scent is reminiscent of ripe strawberries creating a dramatic contrast to the lean, grassy, mineral notes and that come out on the palate. $10.99
Monte da Peceguina Branco 2007 This Alentejo region blend of 60% Antão Vaz, 20% Arinto and 20% Roupeiro is elegant and balanced. Made in minuscule quantities (425 cases in total) by a small family winery, this unoaked white wine combines flinty mineral notes with gentle melon and citrus fruit character. $21.99
“Uma autêntica receita de Portugal”
The cuisine of Portugal, like it’s wines, deserves more attention. A recently released cookbook , The New Portuguese Table ($32.50 at The Spanish table) by James Beard award winner and noted Portuguese food authority David Leite gives a much needed boost to the food of his ancestral homeland.
Searching through this gorgeous, full color, hardbound cook book I found a recipe that not only pairs well with Portuguese white wines, but also coincides with the height of our local tomato season. Try this “tomato jam” as a way to use up some of late summer’s bounty.
Doçe de Tomate
(adapted from The New Portuguese Table by David Leite)
2 lbs. Ripe Tomatoes (the riper the better)
2 cups sugar
1 inch long piece of cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/4 cup Ruby Porto
In a small pot of boiling water, dunk each tomato for 30 seconds, then cool in a bowl of ice water for two minutes. This will make the tomato skin easy to remove. Cut the peeled tomatoes in half across their equator and squeeze the halves gently to remove the seeds. Chop the peeled, seeded tomatoes finely. Peel wide strips of zest from the lemons.
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for an hour or until the jam thickens.
Remove the lemon zest, cinnamon stick and cloves, spoon the jam into clean glass jars and refrigerate over night before serving. The jam will keep for several weeks in the fridge (for extended shelf life, use the traditional hot water bath canning method just as with other fruit preserves).