Is there any other color that sings Spring more than green? The color calls to mind sprouting plants and fresh grass after rain. Even the vegetables dress in season: asparagus, artichoke, peas, lettuce, and “spring greens” (which are in the brassica family, FYI). Delicious and crisp, the season’s produce also tastes of the green astringency that makes wine pairing difficult with Spring dishes.
The right wine can make those flavors shine, but the wrong one will make the wines AND food seem bitter. Keep reading our take on the essential wines for spring.
1. Grüner Veltliner
Austria’s golden child, Grüner Veltliner, literally has green in the name. Its characteristic white pepper aroma gives it a spicy profile that pairs with spring vegetables perfectly. It varies from very light to unctuous (pro tip: in Wachau, which claims the grapes most famous expression, Steinfeder, Federspiel, and Smaragd roughly indicate light, medium, and full-bodied respectively). Put this with asparagus or cabbage and you’ll be feeling gut.
You know the grape, but this is its time to shine. Sauvignon blanc has a flavor compound in the grape that gives it a vegetal aroma. The green pepper taste compliments peppery or green flavors that are often so hard to pair. As a naturally high-acid grape, it also feels in balance for the lighter, acidic dishes of spring. Sancerre is often the best-suited expression, as it is more mineral than fruit, although some new-world expressions are still friendly.
Piedmont’s indigenous white grape is softly textured with an aroma of meadow flowers and fresh grass. If that doesn’t sound like Spring, I’m not sure what does! It was once overlooked, but many artisan, quality producers are making strides here. Pair it with herb sauces, vegetables, fish, or mushroom.
Cabernet Franc has the same compound as Sauvignon Blanc that gives it a green note beneath the fruit and spice. It also tends to be more elegant in the body- less dense than its popular offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon. Chinon in the Loire Valley is the classic region for the grape, although good expressions can be found worldwide. This is an easy wine pairing for grilled vegetables or lamb.
Tobacco, sage, dark fruits, gravel…all the savory flavors of Red Bordeaux make it aromatically pleasing with many Spring dishes. The region as a whole offers a diversity of texture and weight, from the tannic wines of the Medoc to the plush Merlots of Saint-Emilion. For being more full-bodied, Bordeaux has surprisingly approachable with many dishes. The obvious choice is red meat, but anything umami is a slam dunk.
Spring is a season that is easy to enjoy if you embrace the greenness. Wines that pair for Spring flavors compliment these flavors, rather than contrasting. Save your fruity wines for summer and sip on something savory until the days get longer.