Easy peasy vinho verde wines are great for summer

vinho verde wines review

YOU can have a gentle tremble of a fizz of a wine and a refreshing summer white without breaking the bank or popping any corks. How? With a glass of vinho verde.

There’s something easy peasy about these wines; just open a bottle, sit on a garden chair and relax. Nothing much to think about really. They have a delicate fizz, are mainly light on alcohol, and are laced with apples, pears, citrus and hums of stone fruit. There’s a sea-air freshness about them too, from their northern Portugal homeland.

Manuel Pinheiro of the Vinho Verde Commission says: “The crisp, fruit forward style of vinho verde wines make them an excellent choice in the warm summer weather, and a fresher way to enjoy wine.”

Well if you haven’t tried vinho verde, now’s as good a time as any with Portugal Day on Tuesday. Its probably going to be celebrated more in Portugal to be honest, but hey, it’s a good excuse.

Don’t expect cascading bubbles. These wines have a gentle spritz; an expression of their youth. Look out for the most used regional white grape varieties; alvarinho, loureiro, avesso, trajadura arinto and azal.

Quinta de Azevedo 2013 (RRP £8.99, Waitrose, Majestic, The Wine Society, Oddbins, 11% abv). This is made from loureiro and pedernã grapes and has tippy-toe bubbles which tickle and lift as sprightly lemons and stone fruits entice the tastebuds.

Tapada de Villar 2013 (£7.99 Marks & Spencer, 10.5% abv). Loureiro, larinto and trajadura grapes. This was my favourite of the ones I tried. It was sharp, bright, fresh; lemon, limes and green apples. It has just a little extra depth worth savouring as you watch the birds sing in the trees.

vinho verde wine reviewGazela, (£6.99, Slurp and several independents) A pretty bottle embraces a lovely sherbert refreshing frizzle, with a salty-air finish, from a blend of azal, loureiro, pedernã, and trajadura. At 9% abv it is enough of a wine treat in the early summer lunchtime sun without knocking you out for the rest of the day.

Aldi Venturer Series Vinho Verde wine review
Aldi Venturer Series Vinho Verde

Venturer Series Vinho Verde (Aldi, £4.99, abv 11%) Aldi’s new Venturer series includes this fresh white. The fizz wasn’t as fizzy as the others, but signature flavours of lemons and apples held their hands up to be counted.

I’m sneaking in Sainsbury’s Winemakers Selection Portuguese Vinho Verde NV (£4.75) as it won Silver at the International Wine and Spirits Competition on Monday. So you can’t argue with that.

IT’S Father’s Day next Sunday. You might be thinking of buying whiskey (Irish) or whisky (Scotch); gin; sparkles; reds with depth or whites with purpose.

You know your dads better than I do, so it’s not for me to point you in the direction of your preferred treats. But I will point you towards your nearest independent wine merchant.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you won’t get a personal touch in your supermarket. It’s difficult to find an assistant who you can ask “my dad likes this and that, but not XYZ. Can you help?”

Oh, I know, I’ll get my dad some Châteauneuf-du- Pape, you might say. He likes that.

Well, to be fair, he might have liked one he’s tried before, but there are so many variations on the red Pape theme. Why? Well grenache features heavily, but the southern Rhône winemakers are allowed to draw on 18 grape varieties. Imagine how many spicy and rich styles can emerge from that feast of choice.

So seek, and ye shall find, and there’s so much fun in speaking to the experts.

Published in saturday extra magazine June 7 2014 


Balblair 97 whisky is delicate and “Bryan Ferry smooth”

Balblair 97 whisky review

What was going on in the world in 1997? A  book about a  schoolboy  wizard hit our bookshelves, Pierce Brosnan enjoyed his second outing as a Martini-shaking secret agent, while Tony Blair became Prime Minister for the first time.

Oh, and a Scotch  whisky  was laid down in Bourbon casks.

Sixteen years on and the eighth Harry Potter Hollywood blockbuster is fading from   memory, Daniel Craig has enjoyed three outings as James Bond – and Blair has been and gone.

But the 1997 vintage of Balblair has just matured.  Balblair whiskies are unusual in that they are named after the year they were made.
When it comes to whisky I know that Irish whiskey has an ‘e’ in it. Scotch doesn’t. I know I enjoy whisky, with or without the ‘e’.  I even raised a glass to a Scot who won Wimbledon. Did you hear of him?

But when it came to an expert view,  I asked  a whisky  buff colleague  for his thoughts.

Dave – for that is his name –  says it  is “a lovely delicate spirit, aged perfectly, combining freshness with depth and complexity.  At around £55 a bottle it doesn’t tick every box. The colour is a little underwhelming.

 “Distillery notes claim a ‘deep golden amber’ – but in reality it’s more a pale, washed out yellow.
Balblair 97 whisky review
Balblair 97 whisky
“But the  tropical fruits, hints of honey, vanilla and butterscotch  which the label promises are all evident, as is a hint of Love Hearts for those who spent too much time in sweet shops as a kid. It has tingly spiciness, but is  Bryan Ferry smooth.
“Bourbon casks help import fudge, honey, spices, sultanas and hard toffee onto the palate – and there’s also a lovely, long creamy finish.”
I don’t think you need me any more.

In my glass this week …

A couple of  lovely summer whites from The Wine Society (www.thewinesociety.com).

The Society’s Vinho Verde (£5.95) and Exhibition Albariño (£12.95) are on offer until August 11 (£5.50 and £11.50 respectively).

The vinho verde splashes into the glass  like sea foamily glancing onto a pebble. The bubbles frizzle, frazzle and disappear. On the nose there’s refreshing pears apples and … well,   garden daisies? Spritzy summer sipping.

The albariño was made for the  Society  by  Pazo de Señorans, one of the  top estates in  Rías Baixas.  It  has a classic  peachy, rich mouth feel. I love albariño and this has the classy balance of  an on-form Rafael Nadal serving an ace. From a tightrope.

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 13, 2013