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International Wines
July 02, 2013
Casal Garcia - Ready for Summer

In the Photo: Left, good. Right, better


When it comes to Vinho Verde (the wine growing area of Northern Portugal), British Columbia seems to get the lamb’s share of the very small allotment imported into Canada. (A situation that a new marketing agency based in Montreal hopes to change.)

What we do have tends to come from mass market producers – in other words, not the region’s best examples. The ubiquitous Gato, for example, which sells in BC for 10.99, can be found alongside cans of Coca-cola and Fanta in the coolers of European fast food outlets for a mere 2 Euros a bottle.

Inexpensive, however, doesn’t always have to raise a red flag. A very good choice in the budget wine range that is available to us is Casal Garcia Vinho Verde (11.99) from Aveleda, one of the region’s most distinguished, largest and still 100% family-owned winery. Aveleda produces a wide range of wines from indigenous Vinho Verde grapes (even an impressive, Cognac-like example), but this entry line is one of their most popular sellers worldwide, and a brilliant choice for summer.

A bright blend of several varietals (Trajadura, Loureiro, Arinto and Azal), the Casal with its pale green tint, fresh pop of grapefruit/citrus-y flavours and oyster-shell minerality is at its most refreshing and delicious when served extra cold. And while technically not considered a sparkling wine, the presence of a slight carbon-dioxide prickle makes it compatible with seafood, salads and many other seasonal cold foods. It’s a no-brainer to go with picnic, or poolside fare, and may also be one of the best partners for Japanese bento boxes currently available on our shelves.

Both the white, red and rose versions of Casal Garcia come adorned with a delicate lace pattern on the label, and there’s a story behind that. According to family member Francisco Guedes Almeida, when his Grandfather, Roberto Guedes, founded the line in 1939, he borrowed his wife’s traditional Minho-embroidered handkerchief to wipe the dust off a sample of the first bottling. He liked the way the moisture on the bottle made the hanky cling to the glass, and decided to incorporate it into the label design.

Today in Portugal, Casal Garcia sports a modern update to its packaging – the illo of a fetching, retro bathing beauty who appears on the portable six pack variation. The connection with beach drinking is intentional and appropriate. We only wish the wine was a available in this handy format here in BC. It would be a great party tote to throw in a bicycle basket, and at 10% alcohol content, there’s less chance of falling off your wheels on the way home.

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