This version of sangria was inspired my college roommate Diane, a member of Pawtucket, Rhode Island's vast Portuguese community and my introduction into Portuguese culture and cuisine. Diane had exotic sounding weekends at home, a life of Catholic feasts, Portuguese festas, and homecooked meals of caldo verde, linguica, and homemade pão doce.
“Diane não está,” her Grandmother would answer when any one of us reached her on their home phone. Diane’s grandmother never learned to speak English, but she would recognize when any of Diane’s non-Portuguese speaking friends would call from school and would automatically tell us that Diane was out.
We’d occasionally get a glimpse into Diane’s world, when one of us had a car and could drive to meet her at her family’s multigenerational, multilevel home on the weekend. While waiting for Diane, we’d sit across from her grandmother and smile, and she’d smile back. She’d offer us her handcrafted pão doce, and it was lemony and dense– nothing at all like the fluffy stuff we bought in town, and infinitely better. Her home and family were simple, but their bonds were strong, and traditions even stronger.
Diane was the first of my friends to get married, shortly after college graduation. Her former suitemates were invited to the big event. It was a festive affair with scores of relatives and friends so close they were called family. The tables in the simple catering hall were covered with baskets of Portuguese rolls and bottles of Portuguese wine, including the white wine known as vinho verde, literally “green wine.” I thought that the “verde” referred to the color of the wine. What I learned is that vinho verde refers specifically to wine from the Minho region in the far north of Portugal, which is described as a largely rural paradise, lush with greenery. Some say that the verdant scenery gave rise to the name of the local wine. More often, the green in the name is credited to the youth and freshness of the wine, and not its color.
In honor of my Portuguese friend Diane, and the strong bonds of family she shared with me, I am mixing a sangria with vinho verde. Like other white sangrias, it’s the lighter, less intense sibling of the sangria family. Vinho verde makes it special because of its citrus notes and gentle natural effervescence. To play on the “verde” in this wine’s name, I’ve added sprigs of fresh mint. This sangria verde is perfect for warm summer evenings with family and friends. It is the perfect accompaniment to an appetizer of figs and goat cheese (queijo de cabra) drizzled with honey.