The Unbearable Lightness of Vinho Verde

Espiral Vinho Verde is a Portuguese wine. On Mark Oldman’s list of wine bodies from his book, Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine, Vinho Verde is at the very top, the lightest of all wines. I was excited to find a bottle at Trader Joe’s for just five bucks, Espiral from the Minho region in northern Portugal. It is made from a blend of white grapes. This, I hoped would be the beginning of a journey. I put it in the fridge to chill for dinner, observing its long neck green bottle, as if this Portuguese were trying to dress up as a Mosel. I say this because it is the German Mosel wines that come in green bottles. German Rhein wines come in brown bottles. German wines, like Alsatian wines come in long-neck bottles. This is something I learned from Kevin Zraly from his book Windows on the World, Complete Wine Guide. I like information like this. It gives context to the seemingly endless mass of detailed information, such as one finds in the world of wine. I’ll make a simple poached white fish to serve with the Vinho Verde, the lightest fare for the lightest grape blend.

The best part of my job is that I get to spend time making life beautiful. I’m a stay at home mom. Did you hear me say “just?” I was thinking it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a room and told everyone there that I’m a stay at home mom, only to hear everyone gasp, lean forward and say things like, ‘Oh, how interesting. How did you get into that field?‘ Okay, I can tell you how many times that’s happened…zero. There are some great perks to this job, but intellectual stimulation, opportunity for rainmaking, and metal testing are not among them. This is not an interesting job.

Making beautiful meals, finding great wines, planning trips, enrolling the kids in extra curricular lessons and watching them flourish, making life beautiful, those are the perks. Having time to walk the dog, go to the gym, and read books about wine, that’s a great perk.

Much to my surprise, the Vinho Verde bubbles when I pour it into the glass, like champagne. It has petillance, CO2, spritz. The first sip is acidic. It’s like a pale tonic water with a very thin lemon twist waved over it and just a twinge of an acidic aftertaste, a short finish. There’s not much more to it than that. It is the very lightest grapes, a wine with very little body. The more I drink it, though, the more I appreciate its simplicity. This colorless wine with its foolish bubbles, has a soothing tonic taste that is crisp and un-intimidating. It’s neither challenging nor thought-provoking. It’s not at all interesting. It’s bubbly, superficial, and simple. No one could ever take this wine seriously. But it is refreshing and enjoyable. On a hot Summer day, well chilled, this Vinho Verde has a place.

The least appealing thing about being a stay at home mom is feeling like I don’t have a place in the world. It is a simple job that has an unbearable lightness to it. When I was working, I felt plugged in. I had a career to pursue, a career that tested and challenged me. Though I didn’t always like the drudgery of the working day, I did enjoy testing my metal. When people asked what I did, I had an answer. I was proud of the career I’d built for myself. I didn’t, however, have much time to make life beautiful. I ate a lot of frozen dinners, did very little reading for pleasure, didn’t have much time for travel, and wasn’t home enough to have a dog.

I’m proud of my children and the beautiful home environment I create for my family. Our home is full of music, food, books, and pictures of trips we’ve taken together. Understanding wine gives me an intellectual challenge to pursue. It enhances my ability to create beauty and culture in my home. It gives me an opportunity to explore my place in the world within the context of wine bodies from light to heavy. It gives me an opportunity to add richness to my place in the world, my life as a mom. Mark Oldman’s chart of wine bodies from light to heavy is the map I follow as I try to understand wine and place from light and simplistic to heavy and complex. It is a linear map. Espiral in Portuguese doesn’t mean ‘spirit’ as it looks like it might. It means ‘spiral.’ While my spiritual journey probably won’t be linear, surely it won’t follow a spiral. This will more likely be a meandering journey through wine and how life should be lived.

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