Wait, wait, what? I thought this was a Trader Joe's blog reviewing Trader Joe's products. Where's the "Trader" character name or cutesy packaging or anything like that? I don't see that anywhere near here. This looks like an actual, legitimate, bottle of wine that has nothing to do with TJ's. What's up with that, on this, the leading semi-authoritative foodie-hack review site of all things Trader Joe's?
Well, remember the , uh, "beer fairy" that was kind enough to drop off some TJ-brand cold ones a little while back? She was also kind enough to, uh, get us a bottle of Espiral Vinho Verde as well, which she left a note stating the shelf tag explicitly said this was exclusively available at Trader Joe's. And since there's sort of a precedent for this on our blog, well, I figure why not review it. Thank you, booze fairy, but I hope some day that the laws of Pennsylvania will allow you to retire.
This wasn't the first go-around with vinho verde for Sandy and me. Through the generosity of my folks and the marvels of resort timeshare networking, we spent our honeymoon exploring the southern coast of Portugal by day and relaxing in our hotel room at night with a bottle or two of wine and watching the Simpsons dubbed into Portugese with English subtitles. Now that's an experience. In short, if you have the chance to go to Portugal ever, go. We stationed ourselves mid-Southern coast in the town of Albufeira (Arabic for "castle on the sea") and since it was the cooler, winter months, we spent all of our time driving around our tiny Yaris to see different castles and cathedrals all the way from Sagres and into Seville, Spain. Trip of a lifetime, no doubt.
And the wine...delicious. I've heard that, by some measures, Portugal is behind only Russia as a drinking country (I think it's some type of per-capita ranking), and one of the favorite alcoholic refreshments is vinho verde. Literally, it means "green wine," although it's more generally classified as a white and certainly appears that way in color. I've heard it explained that the "green" refers to the very young age of the grapes used for making the wine, as they are smaller and much more tart than their older, bigger brothers and sisters.
For the Espiral Vinho Verde that the booze fairy got for us at TJ's, it's a fairly decent representative of the genre. Imported from Portugal, it's definitely a wine to serve well-chilled. If you take a good waft before drinking, the closest thing that came to mind for me is a freshly sliced, very fragrant green apple, as the tartness just smacks you in the nose. As you take a sip, the tart aroma and taste is even more powerful in a vivid flourish that ends on a slightly bitter note before the tartness reappears to linger for a while. Despite that, overall it is a fairly refreshing, crisp taste and experience that the label states is "medium dry" (I don't know enough about other wines to vouch for that, but it sounds about right, as it's certainly not sweet) which, like others of its ilk, makes a light but bold, unusual glass of wine. If you love tart, you'll love this. If not, you may not be as much of a fan, though for it's inexpensive price (from, uh, what I hear, five or 6 bucks) it's worth a try. We enjoyed a couple glassfuls with a simple lemon chicken pasta we made the other night, and I could see this pairing well with most fish and other seafood. Very summery, and packs a 9% punch to it.
Sandy's not huge into most types of wine, but she definitely appreciates the occasional glass of vinho verde. We were both pretty happy when we discovered that one or two of our favorite brands were available at the nearby state store. For this particular bottle, we both definitely liked it, but maybe slightly from the lack of fond memories associated with it, we can't rank it high among the clouds. As Sandy kinda said, using an example of a famous local product, "It's like getting a Primanti's-type sandwich in Mexico. It can be good, but it's not really the same, either." However, she did mention this was a little easier and smoother to drink as it had a slightly less tart bite to it than we've been accustomed to, and if we could actually obtain this at our local TJ's, I could see us picking it up often enough as the mood would strike. Sandy was content enough to give it a three. I think it deserves a little better than that, so I'm going to one-up that with a four.
Bottom line: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons