Spring Ahead With The Right Light Style Wines
By Fabiana Santana
The early signs of spring are sneaking up on us – nubs of green leaves sprouting from the trees, peep toe pumps on display in store windows, asparagus at the farmers market. All signs point to Punxsutawney Phil being a welcome failure. One of the most eagerly awaited signs? The harvest of springtime wines.
Just like food is favored based on the seasons, wine is too. When it is colder outside, a warming, full bodied red is the comfort food of the vines . But come springtime, the bright sun fills our need for warmth, so instead crisp and cool wines fill our glasses. We are eating lighter, so the style of wine we are drinking needs to compliment that.
“Not everyone thinks of selecting their wines seasonally, but I do,” said Evan Spingarn, the Wine Director of The Tangled Vine Wine Bar & Kitchen in New York City. “When it’s cold and snowing outside, the full-blooded, muscly, opaque reds I drink in winter with stews and roasts seem like warm, comforting hugs. But around the Ides of March, they begin losing their luster.”
Spring is a time to lighten the load – to clean our closets and refrigerators and to welcome in feelings and scents that mimic what the season is doing. “When the sun starts melting the snow off the fire escape, the birds return to their chirping and the asparagus is thin again, what would you rather drink? A high-priced, room-temperature, fifteen-percent-alcohol hammer-blow to the head, or a cool, casual, refreshing reminder that life is in bloom all around you again? Eat lighter, drink brighter, and spend your money on tickets to the zoo and botanical gardens, not prize reds from the cellar.” Here are some suggestions.
Light Wines for Spring
Rose tends to make its biggest splash in the summer, but April is the month when bottles start to line the store shelves. Evan says they are “like graduating seniors home from college, they settle in and stay all summer. Spending $10 to $20 will get you almost anything you want, with a few cellarable items on the higher end, like roses of Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Sancerre and the Rhine.”
These are dry, crisp wines with a characteristic herbaceous that just scream spring. “The wine, in a word, tastes green, “says Evan. Its colors range from a faint light iceberg lettuce color to pale straw hues as the wine ages. Citrus, vanilla, pineapple and green melon are common fragrances and flavors associated with the wine and is the perfect accompaniment to all those farmer’s market greens including asparagus, artichokes, crisp cucumbers, ramps and radishes. “If you like your Sauvignon extra green and fruity, go with New Zealand and Chilean versions. If you like it subtle and minerally, go with Sancerre, Touraine, Pouilly-Fume, and Bordeaux from France, and/or bottles from cool climates like Austria and South Africa. If you prefer it soft and oaky, drink the Californian versions—but being more neutral, those are generally more appropriate for cocktails than for food.”
Light bodied and refreshing, German Riesling are the quintessential wines of spring. While other varieties from the US and Australia are very good, the delicacy of the German varietals make them ideal drinking during a season where the eating is just as delicate. They can run the range from dry to faintly sweet to over the top, dessert style, so ask questions about the vintages on offer. Riesling pairs especially well with spicy foods, too.
Yes, sake is a wine. Springtime sake is a special spirit. Say that five times after a few shots of the stuff! Spring sake is made from the previous fall’s rice harvest. Unlike sake that is made afterward, spring sake does not go through pasteurization or heat treatment, “So its flavors are more rich and fruitful,” says Motoko Watanabe, sake sommelier at Zenkichi restaurant in Brooklyn. Zenkichi offers about 30-40 different kinds of sake that rotate throughout the year as the seasons change.
“Spring sakes are called ‘first press’ sake,” explains Motoko. “So this is the fist press they brew and bottle for the year. The same brewer might put out two or three different versions of sake that year, but this is the first. The preview for what will come the rest of the year.”
Spring sake generally tends to be more floral and bright and much more fragrant than the richer and rice-y sakes that are favored in the winter. “It’s very young, so it is supple and fresh.” She suggests pairing spring sake (which any reputable sake retailer or restaurant will categories as “spring sake”) with light fish and spring mountain vegetables and crisp tempura dishes.
As if there is a time not to drink champagne? What’s especially nice about the spring time champagnes is that they are full of fragrant fruit notes that work very well to cut the richness of sauces and desserts that might be making their away around your spring table. Champagne Pommery has two especially good bottles that can easily turn an Easter brunch or weekend breakfast into a Sunday eggs-travaganza.
* Springtime Brut Rosé NV is a fresh, young rosé full of life with excellent effervescence. Delicate pale pink in color with a bouquet redolent of red berries, red currants, pomegranate and kiwis, this charming champagne is a pristine distillation of the essence of spring. One of Pommery’s four Seasonal Champagnes, Springtime pairs lovely with fresh fish for brunch.
* Brut Apanage NV is noted for its full body and finesse; the color is a sparkling tender gold and the nose is fresh and lively. Displaying its beautiful maturity in notes of dried fruits and blond tobacco, it eases towards a lively and elegant finale that leaves the palate wonderfully awakened. Brut Apanage can be served at any table, and also compliments favorite brunch dishes such as eggs.
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