Vinho Verde 

A year or two ago you'd have been hard pressed to find a vinho verde in Boise. Now we have a half-dozen or more choices. The name translates as green wine, a reference to the youthful state in which it is typically sold. This northwest Portuguese wine region is the country's largest with a wide variety of permitted grape varieties. The vinho verde hitting our shelves is light and refreshing, low in alcohol and most often contains a bit of fizz. Typically non-vintage and priced below 10 bucks, they are meant to be consumed young and well chilled--the perfect wine to enjoy on a hot summer day. Here are the panel's favorites:

Broadbent Vinho Verde, $8.99

Marked by moderate carbonation and richness (landing it somewhere between the other two top picks), the big floral aromas include honeysuckle, lime, white flowers and peach. With its impeccable balance, this is a thirst-quenching blend of bright stone fruit and sweet citrus flavors. The blend of three grapes--loureiro, trajadura and pederna (aka arinto)--shows remarkable persistence on the finish.

Casal Garcia Vinho Verde, $8.49

The richest and highest in alcohol of the three, still a modest 10.5 percent, the Casal Garcia has just the barest hint of fizz. It's a blend of trajadura, loureiro, arinto and azal (take notes; this will be on the test). Aromas of tart grapes and clover are backed by an appealing hit of Brazil nut. Both the clover and a light nuttiness color the palate, lurking behind ripe apple and melon fruit flavors. Smooth citrus adds balance on the nicely lingering finish. Great on its own but would pair nicely with seafood or Asian cuisine.

Famega Vinho Verde, $7.99

This wine opens with delicate aromas of pear, rose petal, lime zest and watermelon rind all colored with a lovely hint of herb. A sassy hit of spritz tickles the tongue in this bone dry, utterly refreshing white. The tart apple, bright citrus and green melon flavors are uncomplicated and appealing. On the finish, the tartness is toned down a bit, offering ripe lime, citrus and a touch of mineral. Got to know the grapes? This one is azal, avesso and pederna, so there you have it.

This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Leslie Young, Boise Co-op Wine Shop.

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