Cheap Buzz: Whites that are just beachy

Posted: August 02, 2013

 B UZZ: Hey, Marnie - my wife made me quit beer to lose weight, and now I'm no longer embarrassed to be seen on the beach. But without a six-pack, what can I drink while sitting in my beach chair?

Marnie: Why not some beer-like wine? Portuguese Vinho Verde would be perfect for a sunny day in the dunes.

Buzz: What's beer-like about it? Is it bitter or something?

Marnie: No, Buzz. Vinho Verde is lightweight and lightly fizzy, and just as brisk and refreshing as a cold lager on a hot day. It's Portuguese for "green wine," a style made from grapes that are barely ripe, or a little "green." Most are white wines, but they come in red and pink variations, too.

Buzz: I've been known to down a green beer or two on St. Paddy's day, so why not green wine? But the trouble with wine is that you drink little portions, so it doesn't stay cold as long as beer.

Marnie: That's because wines are usually so much stronger than beers. Where most beers range from 4 percent to 8 percent alcohol, most wines are 12 percent to 15 percent. Vinho Verde is a nice exception, though, with many clocking in at only 10 percent alcohol or less, so you can pour yourself a bigger, colder glass.

Buzz: OK, but what does it taste like? I'm not a big white-wine fan.

Marnie: Vinho Verde wines are mild and tart in flavor. Picture a lemonade spritzer, but where the flavor is more like green apples and less like citrus.

Buzz: Green wine, green apples - go figure.

Marnie: And, even better for beer fans, these refreshers from northern Portugal have two more beer-like qualities. First, like the most popular beers, they are almost entirely dry, with only a faint whisper of sweetness detectable on the tongue. Second, they are ridiculously cheap. Harvesting grapes early makes it faster, easier and less risky to make wine, so Vinho Verdes are among the world's least-expensive wine styles, often costing less than $2 a glass when you buy it retail.

Buzz: That cheap? Why didn't you tell me? I love it already.

Marnie Old is Philadelphia's highest-profile sommelier. Her latest book, Wine Simplified, is a crash course for the wine-curious for the iPad and iPhone, available via the iTunes App Store. Marnie consults for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and is an adviser to the beverage trade. For more: Buzz's musings are interpreted by Daily News Assistant Managing Editor Gar Joseph.

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