By Rick Riozza

For the remainder of the summer season that extends into October in these parts, we’re covering the refreshing white wines that continue to complement our meals.

Last time, we ventured into “new” white wine territory where we covered those delicious Portuguese white wines from the Douro River Valley. We discussed the several grape varietals existing in the high-altitude and rugged vineyards that were primarily used for white port wine—but now, sophisticated dry whites are the modern approach. Particularly, we found sushi platters and grilled fish dishes to be an exquisite match with the reasonably priced Quinta de la Rosa DouROSA, found over at the 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro in Palm Desert.

Let’s cover some of the other wonderful whites that Portugal is now being known for. It’s great when new wine drinkers experience these wines because it opens up an understanding of the variance of flavors white grapes can produce. And wine enthusiasts love expanding their knowledge of foreign vino—and if you will, those sexy wines that bring ambiance to the table.

Vinho Verde [VEE-nyoh Vair-deh] is both the name of the region and the wine that comes from the extreme northwest of Portugal that faces the Atlantic Ocean. It’s cool and very rainy, and the entire area is like one single green garden. I guess that’s where the wine gets its name.

Vinho Verde is a very light-bodied wine. It contains Loureiro grapes that hint of floral notes and Arinto which shines on minerality. And then there’s this wonderful surprise: utilizing a couple of sexy French and Italian adjectives of pétillant and frizzante, we are simply describing the wine’s offering of tiny spritz-y bubbles like that of a Champagne and the quaff is just as fun!

This pale green wine is distinguished by its high acidity and that light prickle of fizz we just described. It’s not a wine of big fruit flavors—indeed, it’s the wine’s quality of hints of melon, citrus, and apple that keep the drinker amused. It’s all about the aromatics and the crispness that maintains through the warm days for sipping and cleansing the palate. And the mineral qualities can come off as a touch salty.

It may be crazy to state, but the more one drinks this wine, the more one appreciates its simplicity. Clearly it’s a perfect aperitif, but also a heavenly match for oysters and high-acid ceviche dishes. Currently out in stores is the very bright and citrusy Quinta do Cruzeiro Vinho Verde DOC 2011 at around $16.

In stark contrast to the green and rainy north of Vinho Verde, the southern interior of Portugal with its sun-browned spaces is the region of Alentejo . Sometimes called the “California of Portugal” with its heat and wide spaces, this area is quite famous for its cork production. And because of the soil quality, this region is quickly becoming notable for producing the next wave of fine red and white wine.

A grape varietal well known in Portugal and Madeira Islands is Verdelho [Ver-DEH-loh]. It produces an aromatic wine with notes of apricots, citrus flowers, grapefruit, guava, lemon, lime, melon, nectarines, peaches, pears, pineapple, tangerine, and tropical fruits. Its texture is clean, crisp, and rich.

Given that grape profile—as one can imagine, when planted on a rich loamy soil and in the hands of a world class winemaker, Verdelho joins the ranks of great tasting white wine such as Chardonnay and Viognier. And here in this part of Portugal it becomes a wine of great character, complexity and length.

Where Vinho Verde was light and energetic, Verdelho is medium to full body and is a lot more contemplative. The palate is still very fresh and minerally with a long and persistent finish. It’s an enjoyable sipper when served cold at around 45 to 50 degrees. But it is also a great food wine. I’d have it with a cheese plate—especially fresh chèvre. It’s also wonderful with chicken, pork, salads, veal, spicy dishes, and of course fish and especially shellfish.

A great recommendation, with its fragrant tangerine & apricot aromas and ripe creamy fruit on the palate, is the food friendly Herdade do Esporão Reserva White 2011 at around $18. This wine is the perfect complement to shellfish such as shrimp and lobster.

I took a break from the beer one day, over the first TV football week-end, and enjoyed a chilled bottle of the Herdade with green olives, sliced cheese & ham and potato chips. It was a delightful and tasty combo.

Those familiar with The Spanish Table stores can find and purchase these above-mentioned wines on-line at Also check in locally with 3rd Corner Wine Shop, Total Wine, and Desert Wine & Spirits to see their selection.

Bom Apetite! & Saúde!

Rick is your sommelier-about-town as he conducts and entertains at various wine events, parties and tastings. Contact