Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
When the heat-haze is lying over the land and even the cheerful chipmunks in the park are sweating and swearing like dock workers, a simple question springs to mind: in the height of summer, what kind of lunatic would open a bottle of big, rich, oaky, high-alcohol Chardonnay when instead they could be drinking Vinho Verde?
I'm perplexed by Vinho Verde's lack of popularity pretty much all year, but my mystification reaches epic proportions during the height of summer. I don't think, for warm-weather wine drinking, there's really a better choice (equal, maybe, but not better).
The white version - much the better choice - is typically a blend of white grape varieties native to Portugal's and Spain's Atlantic coast: loureiro, trajadura, and others. More expensive versions (i.e. $13 rather than $7 a bottle) often include Albarino, known in Portugal as Alvarinho.
Tartly citrusy, with a kind of chalky, seashell finish, Vinho Verde is traditionally bottled with a tiny amount of CO2 remaining from fermentation - not quite fizzy, but prickly to the tongue in a refreshing way. Look for top producers such as Soalheiro, Aveleda (Quinta da Aveleda is their best wine; Casal Garcia is a few dollars less and also quite good), Adega de Moncao, Quinta do Ameal, Broadbent, Anselmo Mendes and Niepoort.
In the extremely affordable zone, Gazela is also tasty. Buy the most recent vintage - 2012, right now - chill the bottles down well, locate some shellfish, and your day is made.
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