Sip & Savor: Spring Delights
Feb 25, 2016 01:02PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
There is certainly a lot to celebrate this March. Daylight Savings Time begins on March 13th and with it we shed the early darkness of winter. March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday not just for the Irish. The 20th is the official first day of Spring. Let’s all determine to shake off the doldrums of winter and gloomy dark days and celebrate these March events and more.
The first holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, is usually associated with sudsy green beer. But diehard wine drinkers want wine with their Irish meal. If you are dining on corned beef and cabbage you will need a light style wine to complement this boiled dinner. We suggest a light, fruit-forward style of Pinot Noir to complement and not overwhelm this dish. If roasted lamb or Irish lamb stew is on the menu, try a big red like Cabernet, Merlot, or red Bordeaux. A spicy red Zinfandel or a lush, dark Malbec from Argentina would also pair well with any lamb dish.
This year the first day of Spring is March 20th. Nothing will better serve to celebrate Spring than a perfectly chilled Champagne or sparkling wine. Join in lifting a bubble filled glass to the Greek goddess Persephone, Goddess of the Underworld, whose annual return to earth brought the rebirth of Spring to the land.
Easter comes early this year on March 27th and Passover at the end of April, so we want to discuss wines for the holidays now. What better way to celebrate the season’s holidays than with the traditional holiday feasts and great wines. It’s time to shelve winter’s hearty reds and oaky Chardonnays for lighter, brighter wines to complement your holiday meal. Here are some suggestions to help you with your pairing problems.
Appetizers or BrunchYour guests are arriving and your table is laden with a choice of light appetizers or brunch choices. Start them off with a selection of light, dry wines to match with light hors d’oeuvres. We suggest Champagne or a dry rosé wine from France. The light dry rosés of Provence, the Loire, the southern Rhône regions or Spain will stimulate and refresh the palette without stuffing your guests. You might also offer a Pinot Grigio from Italy or a Pinot Gris from Oregon, or offer a fruity and slightly sweet Vouvray from the Loire region of France. All of these wines are clean, fresh and dry, easy-drinking with light citrus aromas and flavors.
StartersIf you are serving fish, shellfish, or chicken, choose from wines made from Pinot Blanc, a Chablis from France, or a Sauvignon Blanc. The Pinot Blanc grape is a white mutation of the Pinot Noir grape. Similar in flavors to Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc wines are fresh with a delicate, crisp acidity that makes them pair well with fish or shellfish. If you simply must have a Chardonnay, try a French Chablis. Chablis wines are made from Chardonnay grapes but the French handle Chardonnay differently from other wine regions. The oak influence is much subtler and often there is no malolactic fermentation leaving a crisp, lean white wine rather than the typical big buttery, oaky Chardonnays we are used to from California and other wine regions. If Sauvignon Blanc is your choice, you have a whole world of wines to choose from. In general, wines made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape are bright, fresh, and slightly herbal with lively acidity.
On To DinnerTo pair with traditional Easter ham, try an off-dry or semi-dry Riesling. Rieslings from Germany are not always sweet and those from Alsace are dry—often bone dry. Or try a spicy, fruity Gewurztraminer, especially if you are serving an apricot or honey glazed ham. The fruity/floral aromas and flavors will pair well with the sweeter flavors in the glaze. If brisket is on your menu, or if red wine is simply your preference, offer an elegant Pinot Noir to your guests. Pinot Noir wines are lighter than Cabernet or Merlot wines with flavors of cherry, raspberry, spices, and hints of earth or mushrooms. For a fruitier style, offer a wine from Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages. Young, fresh and fruity, these reds are produced from the Gamay grape. They are lively with delicate fruit flavors and are very easy-drinking. Spring lamb with its wonderful strong flavors calls for wines with a little more body. Pinot Noir has enough flavors to hold up to lamb as will Merlots. One of our favorite choices with lamb is Zinfandel. Bigger than the other suggested red wines, its rich, ripe berry and spice flavors will more than complement the earthy, gamey flavors found in lamb.
DessertTime for dessert and what is more associated with Easter than chocolate? What better way to end your meal than with sparkling wine and chocolate? A rich, ripe Merlot or Pinot Noir wine will also complement the sweetness and creamy texture of chocolate. Of course, the perfect ending for a special meal is a dessert wine. Try a rich, seductive Port or introduce an Ice Wine to your guests and let that be dessert.
Take a few of our suggestions, experiment with new wines, and remember, wine always tastes best with the only true perfect pairing: food, friends, and family.
Chris Lawson is a founding partner of Fishpaws Marketplace and industry expert of wines, spirits, and beverages.