Archive Wine Bar, located at 909 Dundas West in Toronto, recently hosted a night of introductions to the Vinho Verde wines that will be available at the LCBO in January 2016. The evening focused on a selection of whites. They were paired with delicious food, inspired by the flavours of Portugal, Vinho Verde‘s country of origin.
Vinho Verde‘s name speaks to the traditional approach of the self-professed Wine Growers of the northwestern corner of Portugal (verde meaning green in Portuguese). The region is marked by soft rolling hills and clay soil, a microclimate allowing for wonderful subtleties in the grapes, accentuated only by the biodynamic and organic methodology used by the farmers. One of our hosts for the evening, Archive owner Josh Corea, had recently visited and could attest to the grassroots techniques used to work the grapes. I was happy to hear that natural pest control methods were used, meaning no insecticides, and that planting and harvesting is done on lunar cycles.
We started the night with a Casal de Ventozela bottle, paired with classic cod cakes. This white wine is a blend from a cooler region. It has dissolved carbon dioxide, allowing for a slight sparkling quality. The crisp taste of the wine helped cut the salty and fattier flavours of the bacalhau, and gave the tongue a fresh start to enjoy every bite as if it were the first.
I then sampled the Aphros 2013, derived strictly from Loureiro grapes. The Aphros wine is a great alternative to a Riesling and had a full mouth-feel, allowing every corner to participate in the experience. A true delight! It was paired with a dish from St. Vincent that could be described as ceviche-like: salt cod, lemon juice, black olives, and pepper sauce. The wine’s sweetness was brought out by the acidity in the dish, but did not depend on the food to impress. The Aphros stood alone, and would be a wonderful wine to enjoy during an evening with friends.
I moved on to a Brazao with clove notes from 2013 that was paired with a triple cream Riopelle cheese, apple slices, and fruit compote. This was an off-dry white, whose grapes are allowed to ripen in a warmer region of Portugal. I noted that the wines were all quite young, but never fell flat. Josh pointed out the smaller corks used for bottling are an indication that these wines aren’t meant to sit and age. He informed us that all the wines fell under $20 a bottle, making Vinho Verde a very affordable and approachable collection of wines. These wines lend themselves to more communal experiences; they maintain ties to the large social family gatherings of the old world.
Over the course of the evening, I sampled two other dishes from Archive’s kitchen: a fennel and celery salad dressed with a mint aioli sauce, and the most delicious chicken liver pate, topped with caramelized onions. This was my absolute favourite dish of the night! The pate was buttery-rich and brightened beautifully by the sweetness of the onions. It was paired with a 2010 Quinta de San Joanne Escolha bottle that has a chardonnay note to it. The combination felt like a savoury dessert. I’m already planning my next visit to Archive wine bar based on this experience alone!