Each March 17, the Irish and the non-Irish alike celebrate the patron saint of Ireland by swathing the world in green. There's also a "green wine," but in name only: Portugal's vinho verde. The wine earns its moniker because in Portugal it is drunk almost immediately after production.
The Vinho Verde DOC extends from the Douro to the Minho rivers in Portugal's northwest. The region's winemakers produce both reds and whites, but most of the tart reds are consumed locally; only the whites are commonly exported.
White vinho verde is made from an assortment of indigenous grapes, such as Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura. Many of the whites are effervescent, low in alcohol and high in acid (though some made from Alvarinho can be richer and more full-bodied). They're fruity, often with citrus and apple notes, and they make good foils for seafood, shellfish and spicy dishes.
Many of these wines do not bear a vintage date on their labels, and they are best enjoyed young, soon after their release. In his tastings, managing editor Kim Marcus has found that some of the most consistent bottlings come from Antonio Esteves Ferreira and Quinta da Aveleda.
Vinho verde is inexpensive -- most bottles run from about $5 to $15 -- making it a wallet-friendly sipper.
Check out Kim Marcus' ratings of vinho verde.