Last year, Dan and I traveled back to the Shire to visit my parents and bask in the Kiwi sun. Unfortunately, we decided to go in the middle of New Zealand winter, keeping us off the beaches and bundled up with Milo and boil-up. As a consolation prize, my family made our first trip to the South Island for a tour of the Marlborough wine region. When rains descended upon the gloomy vines of Blenheim, Dan and I were left alone to bike our way from winery to winery, sampling the wares of the New World’s most renowned sauvignon blanc producers.
Rain + 50mph winds + intoxication + bicycles = JOY (suck it fun-police)
While the West Coast may still be enraptured with California-style chardonnay and occasionally that hideous garbage-beast known as white zinfandel, here in New York, the go-to white wine of choice is most definitely New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Sauvignon blanc, with its cat-pee aromas and gooseberry flavors has, particularly New Zealand sav blanc, a consistency which is attractive to most casual wine drinkers. Occasionally, you will stumble across a rare one which speaks in its own language (Cloudy Bay’s “Te Koko” for instance, is a wine that tastes like Patti Smith’s Horses played behind the barrel for eighteen months before it was bottled) but generally, for a very affordable price, NZ sauvignon blanc is considered to be the crowd pleaser for any occasion.
At the risk of losing my Kiwi passport, I’m about to tell you to STOP BUYING CAT PEE WINE. That fifteen dollars you have in your hand? Put five dollars back. Yep, I know – I am telling you to buy a $10 wine. This is borderline Chateau Diana territory, right? “I’m not going to be that person that turns up with a Loire valley wine that says “French Style Cab Franc!!” on it.”
It’s time to turn away from the Sav and journey into the world of Vinho Verde.
Portuguese whites are soooo hot right now. *Blue steel, sips wine* Vinho verde is probably a familiar region name, as its wines are usually a staple on the $20 and under table of most wine stores. Most vinho verde wines are a blend of the region’s white grapes: Alvarinho (the Portuguese version of Albarino), Loureiro, and Arinto. The wines are distinguished by their high acidity and their light effervescence, that makes it seem like you are sipping on wine from a soda pop can. Vinho verde has that trademark minerality you find in most new world sauvignon blanc, but the wine is crisp, medium-bodied and often features salinity (no, not actual salt but the allure of salt) and powerful citrus flavors. I’m a big fan of single-varietal Loureiro, which are often very complex and tease your tongue over the entirety of the bottle. You never know exactly where you stand with Loureiro: is it summer all of a sudden? Am I maybe, gorgeous? New Zealand sauvignon blanc won’t get you pulling out the cellphone to take snapchats with your friends, but Vinho Verde might.
The bottom line here is that Vinho Verde is so. effing. cheap. Portugal might as well be giving it away. And let me let you in on a little secret: until people stop bringing their shitty Barefoot Pinot Grigio from the bodega near your apartment where they spent like, $12, everyone is going to think you are super cool walking in with your Arinto-dominant blend. You paid $9 for it and you made like, $20 in party-cred. It’s a done deal people.
My favorites are:
Vinho Verde, “Passaros” Loureiro, A. Mendes (2014) – $9.99 @ Astor Wines & Spirits
Vinho Verde, Loureiro and Arinto, Casa de Paços (2013) – $6.99 @ Astor Wines & Spirits
Vera Vinho Verde, Rose (2014) – $7.99 @ 67 Wine
Escuado Real Vinho Verde (2014) – $8.00 @ Brooklyn Wine Exchange