In August, when most of the N. hemisphere is in the peak of summer, the #WinePW crew are appropriately exploring Vinho Verde DOC, a virtually unlimited buffet of refreshing summer sips. If you'd like an invitation, check out co-host Cindy's invitation post and then join us on Twitter on 8 August 2020 at 8 AM PST to be enlightened about all things Vinho Verde and food pairings at hashtag #WinePW! Thanks Cindy and Liz, for hosting this event!
A sneak peek short-list of what everyone's pairing with their Vinho Verde is here:
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Cam shares Foods from Around the World Paired with Pink Wines from Portugal
- Event co-host Cindy at Grape Experiences, I’ve been reminiscing upon last fall’s work trip where I spent A Beautiful Morning at Quinta da Aveleda in Vinho Verde
- Event co-host Liz Barret of What’s In That Bottle? is thrilled with Va Va Va Vinho Verde: the Portuguese White That Wows
- Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles answers What is Vinho Verde? 5 things I didn’t know about this perfect summer wine
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm savors Tomato Poached Cod with Vinho Verde Wine.
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass realizes that Distinctively ‘laurel” Vinho Verde Delivers with Seafood and Salad
- Nicole at SommsTable is loving Vinho Verde and Simple Seafood Feast
- Payal at Keep the Peas is pairing Sem Igual Vinho Verde with Peixe Caldine
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator says Vinho Verde: A Green Wine That’s White from Portugal Paired with Tuna, Tomato, Basil, Orzo #WinePW
- Martin at Enofylz is Pairing Maria Papoila Vinho Verde with Summer Pizza
- Susannah at Avvinare explains how Vinho Verde Meets Homemade Sushi
- Terri at Our Good Life savors Scallops, Smashed Peas and a Great Vinho Verde
- Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairing achieves A Successful Hunt Down of a Red Vinhao Escolha from Vinho Verde DOC #WinePW
VINHO VERDE (VEEN-yo VAIR-duh)
The largest of Portugal's DOCs and perhaps the least known globally, Vinho Verde is in cool, wet, verdant NW Portugal bordering Spain. A DOC since 1984, the region has approximately 52,000 acres of vines, 19,000 producers, 93 million liters produced per year, 100 export markets, and 45 indigenous grape varieties.
Although Vinho Verde translates to "green wine" in English, the wines of Vinho Verde DOC and its 9 sub-regions regions are in fact not green. It's a debate, but the name is a hark back to either the astringent nature of the wine that is produced from high-acid grapes with limited ripening, or the lush green region that is Vinho Verde. The arrival of maize in the 16th century shifted all attention to farming it and grape vines were relegated to side spaces... trees, walls, hedges, or pergolas, thus requiring ladders to harvest. Some small producers still train vines up heights, although most wine houses have switched to the typical low-trained vine method.
Most wines are still, but fully sparkling wines have been permitted since 1999 and both are now made in Vinho Verde. A majority - 86% - of the Vinho Verde wines are made from white grape varieties, with reds and rosés in the remaining 14%. The most popular indigenous varieties found in Vinho Verde are white grapes Alvarinho, Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Loureiro and Trajudura. Red varieties include Espadeiro, Padeiro and Vinhão. Blends are quite common, almost the norm, since sun exposure is limited and grapes don't ripen as they would in drier, sunnier regions. But Vinho Verde winemakers take advantage of the weather and different levels of aromatics, acidity, fresh fruit notes, and body that each varietal offers to create puckeringly refreshing wines with a prickly natural fizz when made the traditional way. Some winemakers do add carbonation to mimic the traditional-but-increasingly-rare in-bottle malolactic fermentation.
PORTUGUESE STATE OF INDIA (ESTADO PORTUGUÊS DA ÍNDIA)
The Portuguese sailed to India in the late 1400s primarily to buy spices and take back to Europe for trade. Inevitably over time they set up headquarters in Goa on the SW coast of India, laid claim to a few other territories, effectively established a small colony in India, and remained until 1961. They left a cultural and culinary mark on areas they colonised, and in fact Portuguese is still spoken in some of those areas. This is especially true in Goa, their first Indian HQ. Since Vasco de Gama and the others who came to India were Catholics, they had most influence on the Catholic Goan population.
With regards to culinary tradition, perhaps the most well-known dish is the fiery vindaloo which is derived from the Portuguese Carne de Vinha d'Alhos, a dish made of pork cooked with garlic and wine (replaced by vinegar in India). In Goa it was enhanced with spices and that is the version that has prevailed around the world. SW India is a rice eating culture since that is what grows there easily. But the Portuguese brought leavened bread to the region and it traveled north to Mumbai and a bit beyond, where it is still called pão, the Portuguese word for bread. They also introduced to India chili peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes, which have left an indelible mark on Indian cuisine.
Fun Fact: Prior to chili peppers, black pepper was the primary source of heat in Indian food and it wasn't used so much for heat as it was to balance other spices and flavours. In Ayurveda, black pepper still reigns supreme, so traditional Indian food, which is very seasonal and based on Ayurvedic principles, is mild, flavour-balanced, vegetarian, generally excludes tomatoes and chili peppers and focuses on the many benefits of spices including black pepper. Indians have been cooking this way for tens of thousands of years so we don't usually analyse the traditional food combinations but they're deeply ingrained in us since we eat that way daily.
For my Vinho Verde pairing, I settled on fish caldine, a beloved Goan Catholic dish that is derived from the Portuguese fish stew, caldeirada, but adapted to local Goan tastes and ingredients. Traditionally, caldine includes black pepper as the only spice, although some cooks add a chili pepper or two. Overall it is meant to be a mild dish, always prepared with freshly extracted coconut milk and seasonal seafood.
THE WINERY + THE WINE + THE FOOD PAIRING
Per the winery, Sem Igual means without "igual" (equal in English). The name was chosen to define a Vinho Verde that is different from the popular fizzy and sweet style, but still made with the local grapes. The vineyards are on 10 hectares located in the heart of Vinho Verde, 30 min. from Porto where the family has produced wine since the 18th century.
However, in the younger generation, owner João Camizão decided to depart from the usual. Previously in his career, when on a telecom assignment in India, he decided to continue the family heritage but with a new series of wines that would be unique. Thus Sem Igual was born; the first vintage of Sem Igual was in 2012. Given that a mere 1,000 bottles of the 2018 Sem Igual were produced, I feel quite fortunate to have snagged one.
2018 Sem Igual "Sem Mal" Vinho Verde DOC
70% Azal, 30% Arinto
11% ABV | SRP $25
After an initial 10 day ferment, the wine is bottled to allow malolactic fermentation in bottle which results in a natural delicate fizz, no added sulfites, no filtration. According to the cut sheet, "Before pouring Sem Mal, you need to gently shake the bottle to homogenize the wine."
Granite and gravel, vines ranging from 6 to 70 years. The grapes for this wine came from a 4 year old vineyard
Cloudy, pale yellow, very fine bubbles
Lemons, a hint of wet stone, wet earth
A bracing acidity thanks to the two high-acid grape varietals used in this wine. Decidedly dry but balanced, took a little time to open up. Mainly ripe lemons, wet stone minerality, and a hint of tart green apple with skin. Overall a balanced wine with a welcome lingering finish. The bubbles are not intrusive at all, and make each sip delightful. This wine is made for fresh seafood on a warm summer's day! If I can get my hands on another bottle of this vintage, I'd pair it with oysters on-the-half-shell and a saffron mayonnaise.
We enjoyed it with Peixe Caldine, an Goan-Portuguese seafood stew that I made with shrimp. The mild sweet shrimpy flavour with the mix of warm spices and vinegar softened by the coconut milk beautifully complemented the earthy, citrusy, medium-full-bodied, spritzy Vinho Verde. This would also be good with rice, as many Goans eat it, but we loved it with bread. Pão would be the ideal bread but I'd forgotten to make it so we had it with the last of a baguette and a homemade Pullman loaf that I had made in a style similar to Indian bread aka pão. If you are a seafood lover, you can't go wrong with this one!
PEIXE CALDINE (PEIXE CALDINHO)
makes: 3-4 servings
- 1 tin/~400 ml coconut milk
- 1 in. piece ginger, peeled
- 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1-2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- (optional) 1 in. piece chili pepper (Indian, chile de arbol, Thai, or serrano chili)
- 1 lb wild shrimp, cleaned and deveined
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 large/2 medium ripe tomato, chopped
- 3 cups shredded green cabbage (OR 2 cups shrimp-sized chunks of not-too-watery vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp salt (+to taste)
- 1 tbsp cane sugar
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar (+to taste)
- Open the tin of coconut milk and skim the creamy part off the top into a small blender (or smoothie) jar. Add the rest of the Sauce ingredients to the jar and blend into a smooth paste.
- Heat the coconut oil in a medium pan and when it's hot add the chopped onion and salt. Stir and cook until the onions are softened.
- Add the tomatoes and cook until they're very soft and the juices are nearly evaporated.
- Add the cabbage, 1/4 cup water, and mix well. Let it all cook on medium heat until the cabbage softens. Stir every 2-3 min. so nothing sticks to the pan.
- IF USING OTHER VEGETABLES: add to the pan and cook for 3-4 min. then add 1/2 cup water, cover, cook until vegetables are just tender. Don't overcook or they'll become an unsightly mash.