Vinho Verde Wine Dinner in San Francisco

 

As you all know, we love wine. And, we love food. What better than to go to an event that couples together the wine with the food. This was more of a dinner designed around Vinho Verde wines than a wine tasting. But it more than worked for us!

Wines of Portugal approached Tablehopper to create a dinner around the underexposed Vinho Verde or Green Wine. Tablehopper chose Chef Rob Lam of Butterfly restaurant to design and cook a wonderful five-course Vietnamese dinner to showcase the nine wines that Wines of Portugal’s U.S. Ambassador Eugenio Jardim selected and explained

Before providing an overview of the wines and the accompanying dishes, we must briefly explain the concept of “Green Wines”. Grown and produced in northern Portgual’s Monho Valley, these wines were initially named for the under-ripened grapes that resulted from the region’s short growing season, and drunken while still very young. Although the wines can be white, red, rose, late harvest or fortified, we had all white wines at dinner, and one rose with dessert. These white wines typically have a pale, straw-ish color, a light, fresh taste, a bit of effervescence and typically low alcohol levels (usually below 11 percent). They are produced by thousands of tiny, local producers from a number of indigenous varietals (although most of the commercially available whites are made from Alvarinho and Loureiro grapes). The vast majority of these wines barely make it outside of Portugal, which is why they aren’t well known in the US.

But enough background. Here’s a brief and selected overview of the wines (all from the 2014 and 2015 vintages) and the foods with which they were poured:

  • Passed appetizers, which ranged from periwinkle shooters to crab springrolls and green papaya and mango salad came with two Alvarrinho-based green wines—(from Dom Diogo Arinto and Casa do Valle–one tart and tangy, the other more rounded.
  • The next three sit-down courses each contained two dishes, with each paired with a different Vinho Verde.
    • Sweet potato and rock shrimp and salt cod tempura fritters with Casal de Ventozela Loureiro and Casa de Vila Nova Loureiro—each primarily Alvarinho-based;
    • Tumeric grilled catfish and BBQ pork with Covela Avesso and Estrela—both Loueiro;
    • Lemongrass oxtail stew and clay pot jasmine rice with Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas and Muros de Melgaco—both again Alvarinho.
  • The Lychee shaved ice with almond tofu, oranges and kumquats dessert was served with our only rose of the night from Casal Garcia.

The meal was wonderful—both of us and most of our community-table mates enjoyed the vast majority of the dishes. The wines, meanwhile (especially those consisting primarily of Alvarinho) were far more enjoyable than the few that we had on our recent Portugal trip where we found vinho verde wine to be too tart and acidic. Overall, this was a wonderful and very reasonably priced ($95 per person) Vietnamese dinner and a great reintroduction to Vinho Verde. The only downside was that the wine (justifiably in a pairing dinner) played a supporting role to the food and the conversations. We, at least, would have appreciated a greater focus on and discussion of the wines. Even so, great kudos to Chef Rob Lam, wine rep Eugenio Jardim and event orchestrator Marcia Gagliardi.

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