It’s hot. I mean, Vegas Hot, which is like someone opened the oven in your face when you walk out the door. A little breeze? Yeah, that feels like they turned on the blow dryer. We acclimate, but often you just need something refreshing. So you sit in the air conditioning pour a glass of Vinho Verde and ask Alexa to play ocean waves. If the fan is on in the living room you can pretend it’s an ocean breeze. Here, I pulled up a bit of sunset from off the Pacific Coast highway to put you in the mood.
Well tonight is the night for that getaway. The Vinho Verde is chilling in the fridge and I have put together a menu to compliment it.
Vinho Verde. It means “green wine” or rather “young wine” by intent. This wine is meant to drink in the first year. And while the name indicates that it is a young wine, the name actually stands for a region in Northern Portugal, where these wines are made. You can learn more about this region on the Wines of Portugal site.
What grape do they use?
Most often Alvarinho and Loureiro, but also Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, and Azal, among others. So, as you see, the variety and range can be wide. Still these wines are typically made in a similar style.
What’s that fizziness?
Yeah, it’s kinda effervescent. At least sometimes. Originally this was because the bottles would still be fermenting a little after they were capped and that locked in some of the CO2. Now…well honestly, it’s often added. But regardless, it does make it refreshing.
So what are you eating it with?
Seafood is always a good bet. A meatier white fish or something fried. We are having fried Calamari and Mahi Mahi burgers. It goes well with green vegetables, so I’m going to have a salad with some avocado (a little fat that the acid in the wine will cut through). Creamy rice dishes and potato dishes also pair well, so we will be doing a brown rice and quinoa blend with onions, butter, lemon juice and zest and some parmesan cheese, and latkes. I think arancini balls would be great with this too. We will taste it with Salmon, smoked trout, goat cheese and a parm/gouda blend also.
Now…about the wine.
This Vinho Verde is from Espiral. The wine is bright and when I close my eyes I can feel sea spray flying up from where it is crashing on the wet rocks (there’s my mini vacation). In my mouth it fizzes and opens with a bright tangy citrus. It’s lemon pop without the sweetness or the tartness of “Fresca” (who remembers Fresca?) without the bitterness. It’s joyful as well as thoughtful. The initial sip brings a smile that almost erupts to a giggle and then melts into a quiet moment of savoring, like closing your eyes to capture a moment at sunset on the beach. That…that is what is here in this glass, that balance of euphoric joy and a content sense of peace.
What did it bring to the food?
The calamari was fine. This is such a typically pairing that it was good without sending off any bells and whistles. The Latkes, now that was another story. The potato and onion had such richness and the lemon and acid in the wine cleaned your palate for the next bite. I could have continued eating this combination all night. Our salad of greens would have been fine alone with the wine, but add the avocado to give it some creaminess and fat to cut through, a little goat cheese for some tang and a vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil and thyme and the pairing had real depth in each bite. The Mahi Mahi had a lemon butter sauce of lemon juice, melted butter salt, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and fresh thyme. The weight of the fish and the lemon butter were perfect and the fresh thyme added this bit of unexpected depth that all played very nicely with the wine. Our grain was brown rice with quinoa to which I added butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and grated Parmesan cheese. Again, the creaminess and the lemon were perfect with the wine, the creaminess balanced the acid and the lemon popped back in to match. So like contrasting and complementary colors, these flavors pulled from different sides of the flavor wheel to make for a happy mouth.
We also tried it with a smoke salmon and a smoked trout. The salmon was fine (kinda like the calamari). I did notice that the flavor disappeared at first and then slowly returned to fill my mouth. The trout on the other hand was really wonderful with the wine. Being smokier it felt richer than the salmon and complimented the lemon and mineral nature of the wine. This was an unexpected happy mix, inland creeks longing to return to the sea.
What I learned about pairing with Vinho Verde
Lemon, lemon, lemon
….that punch of lemon in your dish will reach out for the wine and want to dance.
Something richer and creamy
Then add a little creaminess, some fat to cut through, like the butter and cheese in the rice or the goat cheese and avocado in the salad. Or the richness of the potato and onion in the Latkes.
Fried is good
This wine is great with things that are fried, the salt and fat coat your palate and the acid and fizziness of the wine leave you with a clean slate for the next bite. (like the calamari and most definitely the Latkes)
Seafood is a really good bet
The Mahi Mahi paired nicely because of the weight and the sauce. A lighter fish I think would have disappeared. Any fish that is not too delicate should go nicely. I would like to try it with Swordfish or monkfish. Shrimp is also supposed to be a good bet. With the minerality…I am also wondering about shell-fish, clams or fresh oysters. Maybe I’ll try that next time.
Thyme, the unexpected harmony
Most recipes called for basil or parsley and while I can see that, I didn’t have any in the fridge. I was left with Rosemary and Thyme as my options. I went with Thyme. As I added it I was wishing it was a lemon thyme to accent those fragrances, but in the end, I think it was better as it was. The depth of fragrance really was an unexpected harmony to the meal. This earthiness, a bit of forest, maybe again it’s that “land meets the sea” creating a balance.
I wrote about Vinho Verde once before and had a different pairing then. You can check it out here: Pairings at the Keyboard! Vinho Verde