Once again, the Portuguese Esporao Alandra Branco white blend is terrific cheap wine
One of the best things about this job is finding a great cheap wine that remains a great cheap wine from vintage to vintage. And the Wine Curmudgeon has found one with the Esporao Alandra Branco.
The 2018 version of the Esporao Alandra Branco ($9, purchased, 12.5%) is a Portuguese white blend made with grapes like antão vaz that most of have never heard of. And that’s OK – not every wine has to be made with chardonnay. That it doesn’t taste exactly the same as the 2017? That’s OK, too. Vintage difference is not a bad thing as long as quality remains consistent. And it has here.
The 2018 is a little brighter and fresher than the 2017. There is more lemon and lime zest flavor than the than citrus fruit that the previous vintage had, and there is even a little minerality that wasn’t there last time. This wine is leaner and not as full in the mouth; again, not a bad thing, just different.
Highly recommended, and certain to return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2021. It’s just the wine as winter ends and we’re looking for something lighter and more spring-like.
The Esporao Alandra Branco is a Portuguese white blend that fits nicely into the middle of summer
A friend of mine insists that Portuguese wine offers some of the best value in the world, and he doesn’t understand why the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t embrace Portugal’s wines the way I do Spain’s. When I tasted the Esporao Alandra Branco, I understood his point.
The Esporao Alandra Branco ($8, purchased, 13%), a white blend, offers a couple of things that I haven’t found in enough other Portuguese wines. The reds are usually too heavy and the whites are usually too thin, but the Esporao Alandra Branco finds the spot in between.
It’s crisp and spicy, with lots of pleasantly ripe stone fruit. This is the result of the blend, a common combination in Portugal (antão vaz, perrum, arinto) ) that is almost unknown to U.S. wine drinkers. The wine was a little rounder and a little heavier than I expected, another result of the grape blend.
Highly recommended, and especially for the price. It’s an ideal wine for the middle of summer, and especially with richer seafood like tuna steaks or chicken and rice with saffron.
Vinho verde 2019: Better quality this year than in 2018, including the always dependable Broadbent plus the Gazela and Faisao.
The vinho verde 2019 review is good news — much improved quality from 2018, with prices about the same as last year. How can we do better than that?
Vinho verde is a Portuguese white wine with a greenish tint that rarely costs more than $8. It has a slightly sweet lemon lime flavor, low alcohol, and a little fizz — all of which makes it ideal for hot weather.
Our vinho verde primer is here. Most of the cheaper wines, like Santola, Famega, Casal Garcia, and Gazela, are made by the same couple of companies but sold under different names to different retailers. These vinho verde 2019 suggestions will get you started:
• Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($8, purchased, 9%): Not quite as well done as the 2018 (it’s missing some acidity), and it’s a little sweeter this year. But it remains balanced, rounded, and enjoyable — the vinho verde that sets the standard. Imported by Broadbent Selections
• Gazela Vinho Verde NV ($6, purchased, 9%): Stunningly enjoyable, and especially given how wretched it was last year. This bottling is not as complete as the Broadbent, but it’s not stupid, either — lemon lime fruit, pleasant spritiziness, and not too sweet. Much more than $6 worth of wine. Imported by Evaton
• Asnella Vinho Verde 2017 ($15, sample, 12.5%): Vintage vinho verde is becoming more common, but you still don’t see much of it. This bottle is more layered and more subtle than the $8 non-vintage labels — mostly dry, a more tropical fruit style, much less fizz, and more crispness. Imported by Ole Imports
• Bernador Vinho Verde NV ($5, purchased, 9%): This Aldi private label was perhaps the biggest surprise of vinho verde 2019 — almost dry, the correct amount of fizz, and with refreshing lime fruit. It’s a little thin on the back, but that’s not necessarily a problem.
• Faisao Vinho Verde NV ($7/1-liter bottle, purchased, 10%): The Faisao is noticeably sweet, something that I don’t usually like. But there’s enough crackly lemon-lime fruit and the fizziness is so well done that I drank it with dinner (roasted chicken thighs marinated in orange and lime juice, herbs, garlic and olive oil) and enjoyed it. And how can you argue with the price for a 1-liter bottle? Imported by Winesellers Ltd.
Vinho verde 2018: Drink the Broadbent, but pass the rest unless you want sugar and cheap fizz
The Wine Curmudgeon has been a long-time supporter of vinho verde, the Portuguese white wine with a greenish tint. It’s cheap and ideal for hot weather: A slightly sweet lemon lime flavor, low alcohol, and a little fizz. So imagine my disappointment when five of the six wines I tasted for the vinho verde 2018 review were almost uniformly awful.
I was warned, though. When I bought the wines, the saleswoman told me the producers had softened them — winespeak for removing the acidity and adding sweetness. And, boy, was she correct. The wines weren’t quite in white zinfandel territory, but they’re getting there. Call this one more victory for focus-group produced wine, which assumes U.S. wine drinkers don’t like anything but sugar.
Our vinho verde primer is here. Most of the cheaper wines, like Famega, Casal Garcia, and Gazela, are made by the same couple of companies but sold under different names to different retailers. These vinho verde 2018 suggestions will get you started:
• Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($7.50, purchased, 9%): Just about the only vinho verde that tasted like wine — a tinge of sweetness instead of a mouth full of sugar, plus acidity to balance the sweetness. It also had a full mouth feel and some structure, while the fizziness was pleasantly in the background.
• Casal Garcia Vinho Verde NV ($5, purchased, 9.5%): Noticeably sweet, but other than that, sort of what vinho verde is supposed to taste like. Other than the Broadbent, the best of a bad lot. For what that’s worth.
It’s summer. It’s hot. Hence, the vinho verde review 2017.
Vinho verde is the Portuguese white wine with a greenish tint, a slightly sweet lemon lime flavor, low alcohol, and a little fizz. As such, it’s a summer wine, light and refreshing, and should be served as cold as possible.
This year, quality has improved again. Producers, seeing the success of rose, want the same thing for their wine, so they’re exporting more $10 and $12 varietal vinho verdes to the U.S. Many are a step up from the $5 and $6 non-vintage labels that have been around for decades.
Our vinho verde primer is here. Most of the cheaper wines, like Famega, Casal Garcia, and Gazela, are made by the same couple of companies but are sold under different names to different retailers. These vinho verde review 2017 suggestions will get you started:
• Faisao Vinho Verde 2016 ($6, purchased, 10%): This vinho, from the always dependable Winesellers Ltd., is the quintessential $6 vinho verde — a little more than 7-Up: Better bubbles, a little bit of structure, and decent enough lemon lime fruit.
• Casal Mendes Vinho Verde NV ($6, sample, 10%): Top-notch wine that does just what it’s supposed to do — some fizz, some lemon-lime fruit, enough sweetness to be noticed but not to get in the way. Maybe the best I had this season.
• Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($9, purchased, 9%): How can I not like a wine sold by the son of a wine writer? This may be the most consistent quality vinho on the market – always worth what it costs, always refreshing, and always drinkable.
• Anselmo Muros de Melgaço 2015 ($16, sample, 12.5%) Yes, varietal vinho verde can taste like wine and be well done. This effort, made with the Portuguese version of albarino, has freshness and lime fruit, but isn’t too sweet, too simple, or too fizzy. But can you convince consumers to pay $16 for a wine that costs as little as $5?
Premiumization has come to vinho verde, the cheap Portuguese white wine with a little fizz and a greenish tint. In this case, though, that’s not a bad thing.
Too many of the vinhos in the U.S. are non-vintage blends that are indifferently made, with the focus on cranking out as much as possible. The Portuguese, seeing a chance to upgrade quality and sell more expensive wine in the process, have started offering single varietal and vintage vinhos to Americans. The good news is that theses wines are better than the traditional blends, yet still cost around $10.
Our vinho verde primer is here; also know that the wine can be slightly sweet and should usually be served as cold as possible. These four wines will get you started, but these days, there are many to choose from.
• Quinta de Raza Rose 2015 ($10, sample, 11.5%): Find this for $9, and buy a case – it’s almost sweet, refreshingly tingly, and with summery red fruit. It’s a little simple for $10, and hence the caveat, but still well made and enjoyable pink wine.
• Gazela Vinho Verde NV ($6, purchased, 9%): This is probably the best of the traditional $5 and $6 vinhos that include Santola, Sonalta, and Famega (and that are made by the same couple of producers). That means fizzy and almost sweet, and with soft lemon-lime fruit. You can drink it all day and barely notice.
• Quinta da Lixa Pouco Comum 2015 ($13, sample, 13.5%): Vinho as wine and not as a novelty. That means no fizz and varietal character – made with the Portuguese version of albarino, though it’s a little more tart than its Spanish cousin, with more lemon. Nicely done.
• Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($8, purchased, 9%): A step up from the Gazelas and Famegas, though more traditional this year – more fizz, less structure, but still top quality vinho.
The Wine Curmudgeon likes port. I just don’t drink much of it, mostly because the price/value ratio is completely out of whack. Too much cheap port – and that means anything less than $20 – is not worth drinking. So when I find something like the Kopke tawny port ($13, purchased, 19.5%), I run to the keyboard as quickly as possible.
Port has its own vocabulary and can be quite complicated, but don’t let that intimidate you. Know that it’s a dessert wine, sweet but balanced, and that a little goes a long a way thanks to the high alcohol. A couple of small pours after dinner can make a terrific meal that much better.
The Kopke is amazingly well done for the price, and I didn’t expect nearly as much as it delivered. This is another example of a simple, well-made wine that doesn’t try to do more than it should. Look for fresh red fruit, some dried fruit (plums?), brown sugar sweetness, and just a touch of oak to round it out. You may also notice a sort of nutty aroma, which is typical for well-made port. I’d open the bottle well before you want to drink it; it actually gets rounder and more interesting after being open for a couple of days.
Highly recommended, and especially as a Father’s Day gift. And, if I expand the price range for the 2017 Hall of Fame, the Kopke may well get in.