For change of pace – and taste – Portugal’s Vinho Verde is a great summer chill-out wine

Esporao Bico Amarelo Vinho Verde is a blend of three native white grapes from the Minho wine district in Portugal.

Quinta do Ameal Loureiro Vinho Verde 2019, Portugal, SRP: $17 (abv. 11%)  – The winery dates back to 1710 and is located in  northwest Portugal and its oldest vila, Ponte de Lima. The municipality is named after a medieval bridge, first built by the Romans in 1 AD, that crosses the Lima River.

The river splits the Lima Valley, the birthplace of the Loureiro grape, and the Minho Valley where Alvarinho is the prominent grape. Both are renowned Portuguese white varietals.

Loureiro is used to make the highly quaffable and popular Vinho Verde white wine.

You get a good feel of Portugal’s beauty drinking Ameal’s 100 percent Loureiro. It’s cool, refreshing, softly textured and full of bright lemon, nectarine and other citrusy flavors. With an 11% alcohol level, the wine is on the dry side while showing a solid acidic backbone that screams for a saucy food pairing to soak up the tart juice. The taste lingers for good measure.

Vinho Verde is one of the great all-year wines. Not only is it cellar worthy for 3-4 years, it   pairs well with raw seafood bar offerings, especially oysters, shrimp and crab legs.

But you don’t have to wait for a seafood feast or light appetizers to enjoy this crisp white wine. Drink it for a pick-me-upper on the patio. It makes your mouth feel really good.

While there are less expensive Vinho Verdes on the market, Quinta do Ameal’s version sets a high standard for quality (Wine Enthusiast rated it 90 points) and the 2019 vintage is hitting its peak now. The problem used to be finding a bottle.

Up until a year ago, Quinta do Ameal’s highly acclaimed white wines had little distribution outside its home country, but that changed when Portuguese powerhouse Esporao purchased the historic winery in late 2019. The bottlings are presently in or entering the U.S. market and will soon be in 48 states where Esporao’s portfolio is available. The importer is New Jersey-based NOW Wine Imports.

Quinta do Ameal’s Loureiro Vinho Verde could turn out to be the sleeper of the year!

A more modest but no less refreshing bottling is Esporao’s Bico Amarelo Vinho Verde 2019 ($12, abv. 11.5%). Its a blend of 40 percent Loureiro and equal parts (30%) Alvarinho and Avessa.

The light-bodied wine offers pleasant peach orchard aromatics and tropical fruit flavors. After a two-week cold tank fermentation process, the juice matures in steel vats for up to six months at controlled temperatures to preserve freshness.

This pale-yellow wine is attractively packaged in a slim, green-hued bottle topped with a yellow foil cap. A local bird, the yellow-beaked Bico Amarelo, sits on the label.

Bico Amarelo is versatile with many foods, and the Portuguese prefer it with seafood dishes and appetizers. It’s smooth on the palate and ends dry. I’ve served it as a welcoming party drink in place of Chardonnay and received many compliments.

Winemaker Jose Luis Moreira da Silva is one of Portugal’s best and this wine reflects his philosophy for letting Vinho Verde shine in a simple, unadorned fashion.

For the uninitiated, Vinho Verde’s unique flavor is a good addition to the summer drinking stable, especially when your palate is craving for a freshening from more popular whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Chill it, pour and enjoy.