Spring is a time to celebrate fresh vegetables and fruit. And, of course, that means a lot of delicious dishes to pair with wine.
But if you’re new to the world of food and wine pairing, you may be wondering how to do it right. Fortunately, there are a few rules that will help you to find the perfect pairing for your next meal!
Asparagus is one of the most recognizable spring foods. Its sweet, delicate flavors are often used as a garnish for salads, soups and fish. But it can also be enjoyed raw in a crunchy vegetable platter or blended into a refreshing soup.
As a rule of thumb, asparagus pairs well with white wine. Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay and dry Rieslings are all good choices for asparagus.
The key to pairing asparagus with wine is finding a wine that shows enough freshness, without overly taut acidity, hefty tannins or excessive bitterness. Asparagus is notoriously difficult to match with tannic red wines.
To avoid this, look for cool-climate wines with delicate fruity aromas. A Sancerre or Pouilly Fume from France’s Loire Valley is an excellent choice, as is Gruner Veltliner from Austria or the dry whites of Alsace, New Zealand or Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
In addition, some Italian whites are great with asparagus: Verdicchio from the Veneto or Soave from Italy, for example. Spanish whites such as Rias Baixas Albarino or Verdejos work too, as do many Greek varieties.
Salads and side dishes: For light salads with a lemony dressing, you can use a Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend, such as Bordeaux Blanc or Australian Sem-Sav. Punchier dressings need a more robust wine: dry rose works well.
Roasted or grilled asparagus is another great way to pair it with wine. Grilling the asparagus spears for about six to eight minutes gives it a charred flavor, which can be easily matched by a lightly oaked Pinot Bianco or dry Spanish rose.
The arrival of spring brings with it an influx of fresh vegetables and fruits that usher in the new season. This is a time to celebrate the bounty of nature with wine.
It’s also a time to try some unique pairings with the foods we love to eat. If you have a little extra time on your hands, you can make a few appetizers to showcase the unique compatibility of different wines with certain foods.
For example, lemon peppered salmon with seared asparagus paired with a Gruner Veltliner works well as it combines a crisp, white wine that has a hint of pepper with the acidity of the fish. For main courses, you can pair a robustly fruity Syrah with lamb dishes that are braised or roasted to highlight the dark fruit flavors of the wine.
If you’re looking for a wine that is less racy, go with a Pinot Blanc or Chasselas. They work great with both raw and cooked fennel.
Aside from being a delicious, green veggie, fennel has a distinct anise flavor that makes it a perfect candidate for white wine. It’s important to remember that raw fennel will need a dry wine, whereas cooked fennel needs something with more body and richness.
Another way to pair a wine with fennel is to choose one that has a lot of mineral tones and herbal notes. Sauvignon Blancs from cool regions like the Loire Valley, Marlborough in New Zealand and the North Coast of California are a good choice for this type of food pairing.
Fennel is a wonderful vegetable to add to any dinner plate, and it’s easy to find recipes that pair this herbaceous, spring-like vegetable with wine. To maximize the potential of fennel’s pairing power, try to trim and core it before serving. It’s an ideal ingredient for soups, stews and pastas.
In the spring, when the weather begins to warm and fresh produce starts to pop up in the markets, it’s time for picnics, open-air meals, and refreshingly crisp salads. It’s the ideal season to celebrate fresh vegetables, and pairing wine with these flavors makes them even more delicious!
But wine pairings with vegetables can be a bit tricky because veggies span the flavor spectrum, from sweet and sour to bitter and vegetal. They have both acidity and alcohol, and no one wine can match them all.
The best way to pair wine with lettuce is by selecting a white wine that has high acidity and green character. A Sauvignon Blanc, Gruner Veltliner or Pinot Gris are all good choices for a light and bright spring wine.
If you’re serving a light salad that’s been dressed with a vinegar-based dressing, look for a dry Sauvignon Blanc or a crisp Pinot Gris. Salads are normally a light dish so a full-bodied wine, such as a red, will overpower them and make them taste too heavy.
Another tricky vegetable to pair with is artichokes and asparagus, which both have a sulfuric and bitter quality that makes most wines taste rather nasty. However, oxidating sherries such as a Sercial Madeira or Manzilla Sherry are often excellent wines for pairing with these foods.
Miner’s Lettuce is a spring lettuce that is a little tougher than many other types. It has less veins and more leaf, making it a little meatier than other lettuces. This is a wonderful addition to salads, but don’t overcook it or you’ll lose its toothiness.
Spring lamb is a tender, flavorful cut that pairs well with red wines. It’s also a popular choice for Easter dinner.
When pairing wine with a lamb dish, consider how the meat is prepared and what herbs, spices, or other ingredients are used. This will help you choose the best wine for your recipe.
Young or spring lamb, like the rib-eye steak that is traditionally served at Easter, is often more mild than other cuts of lamb and tastes better with dry, fruit-forward reds. Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec are a couple of great choices for this type of lamb.
Another excellent choice is a blend of Tempranillo from Spain or Syrah from the Rhone Valley. These wines have plenty of red fruit and earthiness to match the savory flavors of this lamb roast.
If you prefer white wines, try a French rosé that’s aged for a while in the bottle to add depth and complexity. Pair it with an herb-seasoned lamb cutlet and a delicious salsa verde for an impressive spring meal.
Roasted lamb, such as a cutlet, leg of lamb, or rack of lamb, is usually cooked medium-rare to well-done and paired with vegetables or sauces. A red Bordeaux or a Rhône red blend are good matches for this dish, and a robust Merlot is an option too.
Roasted lamb is an ideal pairing for a rich, fruity red wine with balanced acidity. This is a great pair for any type of roasted lamb, but especially the rack or leg that is slow cooked to achieve a tender texture. A Xinomavro from Greece is also an excellent choice for this dish, as it has a citrusy scent that complements the garlicky flavor of the lamb.
One of the most difficult foods to pair with wine is artichokes. The reason is because they contain a chemical called cynarin.
This compound inhibits taste receptors, making everything you eat seem sweeter than it actually is. This is especially true for wines that have been aged in oak – the cynarin will attach to any sweetness in the oak and pull it out of the wine, making it taste much more cloyingly sweet than it should be.
To combat the problem, it’s important to choose a wine that is dry, high in acidity and doesn’t have any residual sugar. This will help to balance out the cynarin’s effect and make your food and drink taste fresher.
Another tip is to choose a wine that is aged in neutral oak. The cynarin’s effect is more powerful on neutral or low-oak wines, so this will help to balance it out and prevent it from making your food and drink taste too sweet.
A good match for artichokes is a dry, low-acid white such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Gruner Veltliner. These have vibrant acidity and citrus zesty notes that complement the cynarin’s effects.
For a richer preparation, try a braised artichoke or fried artichokes with hollandaise sauce. These dishes can pair well with a medium-bodied dry red like Marcillac, but you’ll probably want to avoid wines that have been aged in oak for any of these preparations.
Lastly, it is also important to remember that artichokes are best enjoyed fresh. This is why it is recommended to steam or grill them before eating them. This will keep the artichokes tender and tasty, even if they are a bit waterlogged.