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Drinkable Wednesday: Green, green wine

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by guest blogger Seanan Forbes

"If I were going to be an inanimate object," Francisco Guedes says, "then this is what I'd want to be." As he speaks, he indicates a bottle of Aveleda Casal Garcia.

Given Guedes' ebullient energy, it's hard to imagine him as anything inanimate, but it's easy to understand his choice. Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Branco is a lively wine. Its taste shoulders the edge of sparkling; it's that kind of bright. Casal Garcia - NV.jpg

Guedes is Aveleda's brand ambassador, but he's also a member of the family. That doesn't mean he's biased; it means he's a little bit in love. Clearly, though, this is a household where affection doesn't outweigh a desire for perfection. Any wine that's going to represent Aveleda is going be good - and any wine that makes a Guedes dream of being inanimate is going to be exceptional.

In Portuguese, "vinho verde" means "green wine" and the wine does have a pale green tint. The region where it comes from is lush.

"It's almost like Ireland," says Leslie Sbrocco, author, wine expert and founder of Thirsty Girl. The name, then, is a reflection of both terrain and wine - but, Sbrocco says, "It really is about the freshness and brightness that the wine has."

Those characteristics might be unexpected. For many people, the standard equation is Portugal plus wine equals port: thick, rich dessert wine that spins dreams of cheese plates.

The assumption is understandable. As Sbrocco observes, "Portugal is a very small country." It's easy to presume that a small place has only one style. Portuguese cuisine varies from region to region, however, and so does the wine.

"Vinho Verde is not far from where Port originates," Sbrocco says. "Even though they're close geographically, they couldn't be farther apart on the wine scale."

Port's perfect for autumn; Vinho Verde is made for summer. It cries for salads, grilled shellfish or ceviche. Rick Bayless makes an all-but-revered ceviche. The recipe's adaptable enough to let the market lead.

Whose Vinho Verde should you try? Go for that bottle of irresistible brightness. "Aveleda's an iconic producer in the Vinho Verde region," Sbrocco says. "Talk about a perfect warm-weather wine: That's it. Poolside or beachside, that's the wine that I would grab."

Ceviche recipe after the jump.

Frontera Grill's Now-Classic Ceviche (Ceviche Fronterizo)

MAKES ABOUT 4 CUPS (ENOUGH FOR 6 TO 8 AS STARTER)

1 pound "sashimi-quality" skinless meaty ocean fish fillet (halibut, snapper and bass are great choices), cut into ½-inch cubes
About 1 ½ cups fresh lime juice
1 small white onion, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
Hot green chilies to taste (roughly 2 or 3 serranos or 1 large jalapeño), stemmed and roughly chopped
¼ cup pitted green olives, preferably manzanillos
1 large (about 10-ounce) ripe round tomato, cored, seeded (if you wish) and cut into ¼-inch pieces OR ¼ cup (lightly packed, about 1 ounce) soft sun-dried tomatoes, chopped into 1/8-inch pieces
¼ small jícama, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch pieces (optional, but suggested if using sun-dried tomatoes)
¼ cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)
2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
Salt
1 teaspoon sugar
About 16 ounces of sturdy tortilla chips or 3- to 4-inch tostadas (preferably chips or tostadas from a local tortillería), for serving

"Cook" the fish in lime juice. In a large non-reactive bowl (stainless steel or glass are best), combine fish, lime juice and onion. The fish cubes should float freely in the juice; if they don't, add a little more juice. Cover and refrigerate until fish is as "done" as you like: 30 minutes to an hour for medium-rare, 3 to 4 hours for "cooked" all the way through.

If you're planning to serve your ceviche on chips or tostadas, tip off all the lime juice; to serve in dishes or glasses, tip off about half the juice. (Sad to say that the juice is fishy tasting at this point and can't easily be used for another preparation or another round of ceviche. In Peru, however, they season it, pour it into shot glasses and serve it as sangre de tigre--tiger's blood.)

Flavor the ceviche. In a mini-food processor, process green chili and olives until finely chopped (or finely chopped by hand). Add to fish along with tomato, optional jícama, cilantro and olive oil. Stir well, then season with salt (usually about a scant teaspoon) and sugar. Refrigerate until ready to serve -- preferably no longer than an hour or two. Serve the "dry" version with the chips or tostadas for your guests to use a little edible plates; serve the "wet" version in small dishes or glasses.

Rick Bayless

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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