I love summer tomatoes, especially the odd-looking but flavorful varieties called heirlooms. When they’re in season, I eat them practically every day. But I’ve always struggled to find a wine that matches up with the juicy balance of sweet, fruit and tart flavors.
I hit the jackpot recently at Alfama, a Portuguese restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Naturally, I ordered an appetizer described as “Farmers’ market tomato and cucumber salad with goat cheese in a Portuguese vinaigrette” ($12) and was delighted when it featured delicious red and yellow tomato slices, refreshing cucumbers and salty, crumbly cheese. Just as naturally, I ordered a Portuguese white, the distinctive and traditional Vinho Verde, from the country’s northwest seacoast. The match was made in heaven.
The Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2010 ($9 per glass) was medium-bodied, with bright flavors of peach and cilantro, juicy tangerine acidity and a touch of spritz. I rated it 87 points, non-blind. It practically twinned the tomatoes in weight, flavors and balance. The wine, from a property owned by the giant Sogrape company, is mostly made from the Loureiro grape, indigenous to the region; the wine, by law, cannot exceed 11.5 percent alcohol, so it made a gentle lunch companion. I went on to a delicious main course of pork and clams with a glass of red, but it’s the memory of tomatoes and that lively white that lingers like the taste of summer.
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