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Why Vinho Verde won't be the new Grüner Veltliner (or the new Albarino, come to that)

Now that Grner Veltliner has become a fixture on fashionable restaurant wine lists (along with Albarino and Picpoul de Pinet) there are signs that sommeliers are looking for the Next Big Thing. And the most likely candidate looks to be Vinho Verde.

It has all the necessary qualifications. It’s cheap (until demand forces prices up - Grner and Albarino were cheap once); it’s notably improved in quality and it’s reasonably good with the sort of light fish and vegetable dishes that we all want to eat at this time of year - unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, of course.

I like it but I’m not sure it’s going to be a stayer. It’s just a bit too light and short to cope with other than fairly simply prepared salads and seafood. I had a carafe the other day in the new Theodore Kyriakou (ex Real Greek) restaurant More and it didn’t have the character to deal with our assorted mezze and a main of fish couscous. I can’t see it standing up to spicy food in the way that Grner does so successfully. It’s pleasant in the way that Muscadet is pleasant on a hot summer’s day but it lacks intensity - or at least the bottles that I've tried so far do.

No doubt there will be those who disagree. Unlikely (to me) pairings that have been cited include corned beef and cabbage, shepherds pie and Irish stew from my Canadian colleague Natalie Maclean - though I’m with her on linguine with clams or crab and can imagine it would go well, as she suggests, with asparagus.

David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria, and author of The New Portuguese Table reckons it goes with duck, pork, lamb and even chocolate which I can’t imagine but am sure he’s right about its affinity with garlic and fresh coriander (cilantro). And dill, I suspect, too which might make it an interesting partner with the new Nordic cuisine

I’d also quite like it, I think, with young goats cheese and spring vegetables or a spring vegetable frittata, with smoked or poached trout and cucumber and of course with grilled sardines - a terroir-driven match from the region of North Portugal it comes from. And it would be nice with a tuna pat with a touch of lemon.

Anyway there’s now a fair bit of it out there so there’s plenty of opportunity to experiment. If you have any favourite pairings do write to me at fiona@matchingfoodandwine.com and let me know

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