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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Broadbent Vinho Verde

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 5:15 PM

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Portugal may best be known as a producer of Port and Madeira, but it's a nation with a winemaking culture as diverse as it is old. Scores and scores of grape varieties, some grown few places else, occur throughout the nation, and Portugal's valleys, mountains, and plains are divided into protected regions of wine origin. The Douro region might be the most reputable. Less known and respected is the northwest Minho province, home to Vinho Verde.

We know you're not stupid, but allow us: This means "green wine," though it has nothing to do with color. Vinho Verdes can be red or white, and the "green" refers to the age at which these wines are meant to be drunk: that is, young. They wouldn't likely age well anyway, since many bear alcohol levels not more than 9 percent, though some go to 11. The wines are generally blends of several grapes, and they're pleasantly spritzy, though not enough to technically qualify them as "sparkling."

In the region of Vinho Verde's birth, farmers have traditionally trained their vines in a fetchingly charismatic way ― up trees, fences, telephone poles, and basically any standing structure that will lift the fruit and foliage off the ground to make space for vegetables and herbs. This remains the way in parts of Portugal, though standard trellising has begun to bring order to these typically photogenic vineyards.

The wines remain the same, though ― and they mostly remain in Europe, for Vinho Verde has never become a star in California. Shouted down by show-stealing Chards, Cabs, and Zins with alcohol levels of 13, 14, 15 percent, and more, how could Vinho Verde have done anything but stand meekly on the sidelines? Alcohol, after all, is the bang that many consumers seek with their buck. This applies more to beer than to wine, which will give you a buzz no matter how light ― but a 9-percent-alcohol Vinho Verde is so far off the playing field many haven't even noticed it.

That's a shame, given that this crisp, mild style is quite dramatic ― highly aromatic and undeniably refreshing. We recently tried the Broadbent Vinho Verde, a Sprite-colored white with no declared vintage. The aroma was green and grassy, with subtle grapefruit, apricots, and pepper. Fruity, it was nonetheless dry, with an effervescence bubbling through flavors of citrus and tropical fruits. With its lingering finish of guava, it would make a fine picnic wine for a sunny day like this.

But we'll admit it: This wine lacks bang. If you're looking for a firm buzz, you might want to grab a Cab.

Broadbent Vinho Verde: $ 9.99 at Andronico's Community Market, 1200 Irving (at Funston), 661-3220.

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Alastair Bland

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