Greetings, good people of the Internet. Thank you for joining me for this particularly festive St. Patrick's Day Weekend edition of Wine and Vinyl. In an attempt to meet modern criteria for the holiday, I have scoured the shelves of local record stores and beverage purveyors to bring you a pairing both Irish in origin, and (in a sort of roundabout manner) green. I’ll admit this was not an easy match to make. On the one hand you have Ireland, a country that in spite of being roughly the same size as the state of Indiana, has produced more artistic talent than is really imaginable. Having to choose not just one artist, but one album seems almost offensive. On the other hand you have the whole green issue. Because wine, it’s red or white, right? Alas, as some of you who know me know, unless there is ketchup involved, I am not easily deterred.
So, brothers and sisters, it is after moderate to slightly above moderate deliberation that I present to you a duo so immensely enjoyable that had St. Patrick himself been presented with it he would have likely said something to the effect of, “Well. This is just lovely. Do we really have to chase out snakes today?” Forever altering the future first quarter profits of the Guinness and Jameson companies. Yes, today we are talking about none other than the legendary “Belfast Cowboy” himself, Van “The Man” Morrison, and his 1972 masterpiece St. Dominic’s Preview. Which shall be accompanied beautifully by the slightly effervescent, mouth wateringly acidic, entirely refreshing pride of Northwest Portugal — Vinho Verde.
I’ll start with a brief rundown of this unique wine and its colorful title. Confusingly enough, Vinho Verde, which literally translates to “green wine,” is made using a variety of grapes that can produce wine styles ranging from white to red to rose, from still to slightly sparkling. It is named for the DOC (government designated/regulated wine region) in which it is produced. However, unlike more famous appellations such as Burgundy or Rioja, there is no actual town or region in existence that hosts the beverage’s namesake. In fact, the history of the name “Vinho Verde” is disputed. Some claim it was derived from the lush green countryside of coastal Portugal. Others believe it was named after the general agreement that the stuff tasted best when consumed while the wine was fresh and youthful, or “green.”
Now, I’ll admit that upon mentioning the chosen wine for this week, I got the all too familiar eye roll from some of my more elitist industry colleagues. A particular pang of condescension I first experienced upon arrival at a WSET examination in my usual street uniform of hole-y jeans, cowboy boots, and an interpretively buttoned Hawaiian shirt. Why the judgement, you might ask? Why would one deny themselves the whimsical pleasure that is having your salivary glands aroused and your stress momentarily overruled by the easy-going joy that is a chilled glass of Vinho Verde? Because, it's fun. Obviously. Not only is it fun, it’s also one of my other favorite things, simple. A combination so naturally enjoyable that it has drawn the ire of haters and frigid sommeliers since the dawn of time. A demographic with whom I often enjoy spirited beverage debate but most certainly do not write this blog for.
I think of Vinho Verde like an early summer pool party, when that first strong wave of summer heat is still more than welcome. A momentary parallel tropical universe where children, as well as guest opinions on climate change or gender equality, are simply not permitted (if offended, please see next two sentences). A blissful and necessary event. For just as it is absolutely imperative for societal progression that we curb the rate at which we are destroying the planet and start paying women like the obviously superior beings that they are, it is undeniable as well as medically and historically documented that we all need a fucking beach day (or whatever your regional equivalent is) now and then. Furthermore, I believe you’ll find this integral dose of escapism is represented seamlessly by the flavors and terroir of Vinho Verde. A vibe you will also find created naturally by the sounds of Van Morrison’s sixth studio record.
Speaking of the record. Once I had settled on the idea of Van “The Man” for this week’s musical offering, I was initially inclined to include my first love of a Van Morrison album, the incomparable and legendary Moondance. A recording I was fortunate enough to be spoon fed by my parents starting at a very young age. But somewhere in between reading about the green rolling hills off the Northwest coast of Portugal and enjoying sips of overtly refreshing light- hearted Vinho, my mind was steered in St. Dominic’s direction, for a variety of reasons. First, if we assess this pairing culturally, you can take a track like “Gypsy,” with its sexy, syncopated Flamenco/Gypsy Jazz influenced rhythms, genres deeply embedded in the traditional Portugese musical style, Fado. Second, if you consider the joyous and carefree expressions that Vinho Verde provides the senses, the parallels are completely indisputable. I challenge any reader (before any wine consumption, of course) to find a sunny day and an open stretch of highway, then turn up “Jackie Wilson Said” LOUD and TRY to drive the speed limit. For I, as well as for a respectable local law officer I met earlier this week who fortunately for me also happens to be a huge Van fan will attest, it is nearly impossible.
Now, as I know that many of you reading this today are feeling the flip-side of St. Pat’s over indulgence in the form of stout pints and glasses of brown Irish spirits and have now officially sworn of alcohol forever, I will leave you with this parting advice: Hydrate, then give yourself a couple days to remind your body that you are a well intended, worthwhile human being. Then give this pairing a try. I think you’ll find it not only enjoyable but also healing, at least for the soul if not your vital organs.
Here’s the Recipe:
Producer - Mapreco
Vintage - 2016
Region - Vinho Verde D.O.C.
Grapes - Not Listed *this is common, however the more expensive Vinho Verde tend to be single varietal made from Alvarinho
Price - $10
Nose - intense lemon/lime citrus notes with a hint of minerality and spring flowers
Palate - High acidity, strong green citrus note, just barely effervescent. The mineral thing comes through way more on the tongue, providing a lasting finish for such a quaffable wine style. Well worth the investment.
Artist - Van Morrison
Album - St. Dominic’s Preview, 1972, Warner Bros.
Serving instructions - Best presented loud with the windows open on a sunny Spring day.
Notes - Obvious commercial viability paired with relentless groove and deep, memorable lyrics are prominent on Track 1 “Jackie Wilson Said” as well as the album title track. More eclectic/avant garde, yet equally enjoyable vibes can be found on “Gypsy” and “Listen to the Lion”
Favorite Lyric - “All the orange boxes are scattered against the Safeway supermarket in the rain, and everybody feels so determined not to feel anyone else's pain” from St. Dominic’s Preview
Thanks for reading, as always, and until next week.