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Two Vinho Verdes
Gazela Porta Nova
Vinho Verde means "green wine," but it takes an active imagination to find more than a hint of green in this pale, clear and perhaps just barely brassy-colored quaff. "Green" in this context doesn't refer to the wine's color but its young, fresh nature, and the conventional wisdom holds that the wine - not unlike France's Nouveau Beaujolais - should be drunk up as soon as possible after it's produced, while it is young and fresh. For many years, Vinho Verde was rarely seen in most parts of the U.S., and when it did turn up on retail shelves, it was best to approach it warily.

This is still true to some extent, as today's tasting attests: A 1998 Vinho Verde with more than a year in the bottle seemed dull and lacking the sprightliness that makes this wine special. But a non-vintage example that came with a reliable wine merchant's assurance that it was "just off the boat" was better by far. Crisp and crackling and tart, low in alcohol so you can almost gulp it in quenching draughts, it was a delight with fish. And at $6 for a bottle, it's one of the best low-price wine buys around.

Gazela non-vintage Vinho Verde ($5.99)
Pale straw color, this wine offers fresh apple aromas and a dry, crisp flavor that's prickly with light carbonation on the tongue. Tart and cleansing, it's a good aperitif. U.S. importer: Evaton Inc., Stamford, Conn. (June 7, 2000)

Porta Nova 1998 Vinho Verde ($5.99)
Pale straw color with a brassy hue, fat bubbles line the glass. White-fruit aromas are faint at best; prickly carbonation highlights an otherwise simple and almost bland fresh-apple flavor. Better with food, this wine might have been better with a year less age. Note: Buy the youngest Vinho Verde you can find. U.S. importer: World Shippers & Importers Co., Philadelphia. (June 7, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: Good with grilled bluefish.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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