The fitful days of Spring are upon us. And with its changing light and brighter weather our taste for the warm, spicy, opulent wines of winter, that helped make our indoor dwellings so festive and cosy, is waning. As we begin to entertain thoughts of moving outdoors, the wines we bring with us should reflect the change in the season. A Greco Di Tufo from the hills of Campania in Italy reflects the pale, warm sun finally reaching through the clouds or a Gruner Veitliner or Pinot Gris that’s as crisp as a breeze(or gust) ruffling napkins when we’ve dared to dine al fresco for the first time! Not to mention the fresh herbaceous grassy notes that should be as present in our Sauvignon Blanc, as the scents of wet green grass are in the air. Subtle fruit and floral notes lull us into the longer evenings and bring on thoughts of coming summer days.
The delicate floral notes of a sparkling Prosecco or Pecorino echo the scents of blossoms beginning to be visible in gardens and green spaces like the Iveagh Gardens and in my very local and very tiny St Kevins Park, hidden away on Camden Row, where I can see the first cherry blossoms peeking out. Vineyards too will also be coming into budburst around this time with early ripening varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir starting to flower in the coming weeks.
As well as a taste for lighter, livelier wines murmuring, I also find myself hankering after lighter meals and for dishes that are complimented by and bring out the best in the whites, lighter reds and rosés I want to put on the back garden table, albeit under a deceptive warmth of a garden heater and wearing a dad style Aran jumper.
Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Blends
So much has already been said about this familiar acid fresh varietal. Matched in its ubiquity by the range of styles it’s produced in. The upper Loire and its twin appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé produce crisp mineral wines with restrained clean, green aromatics like lime and kiwi. The New World offerings are produced with more extravagant aromatics like the world famous New Zealand Marlborough variety that set a benchmark with its pungently herbaceous style and heady tropical fruit.
Aromatic Styles of Sauvignon
Try the Glover Family offering, Zephyr Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand.
Or Lawson's Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc
This wine is drowning in awards. It’s typical of the Marlborough style with energetic aromatic fruit on the nose and palate. Ginger, green apple and crisp highlights of lime are apparent on the nose with a citrus focussed palate balanced by quenching acidity. When paired with food, the powerful aromatic flavours of kiwi sauvignon require big flavours to keep up.
With this wine try Grilled Sardines with Charred Lemon and Chiles.Oysters will be ace with strong seasonings like shallot and red wine vinegar or Tabasco. Asian, more specifically, Thai fish dishes will be excellent. Try Pan-Seared Scallops with a Special Thai Sauce. The tangy, spicy flavours stand up to be counted with an aromatic Kiwi Sauvignon. Goats Cheese and herby salads will work well too.
Cool Climate Minerally Sauvignon Blancs such as Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé
There’s plenty of cross-over in the complimentary foods suited to the differing styles of Sauvignon. The style of cooking and seasoning will be more of a deciding factor in whether to choose a mineral Loire style or a modern New World style.
With minerally Sauvignons like Sancerre or Pouilly Fume choose lightly seasoned ingredients. Raw and lightly cooked shellfish like oysters and shell-on prawns. Fresh crab and simply grilled fish such as sea bass, especially with olive oil. Goats Cheese is the ultimate Sauvignon cross-over food, it goes with all of them.
Try Chateau de Tracy Pouilly Fume, Loire Valley, France
La Chenaye Sancerre, Loire Valley, France
Semillon blends such as white Bordeaux
The Semillon adds body and lusciousness to the Sauvignon so can be paired with white meats such as chicken or veal especially if accompanied by a creamy sauce.
Try Domaine de Ricaud AC - Bordeaux Blanc, France
Also as a bit of a wild card, try Chateau Viella Pacherenc – Madiran France. This white Madiran is a blend of Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Arrufiac. It makes for a very interesting alternative to Sauvignon Blends. Dry and crisp with wisteria like florals on the nose, excellent chilled with white meats and grilled fish.
Austria’s best known white wine, Grüner has seen a hike in popularity in the Irish market in recent years, partly due to its being less divisive that Reisling but more complex and crisp than Pinot Grigio. It strikes a happy note with sommeliers and regular human beings alike. An herbal note and a curious touch of white pepper sets it apart from other young fresh varietals. In Austria it’s paired with cold meats, salads, light vegetable dishes and fish. It works well with artichokes, which can be difficult to match. Its own inherent herbal notes pick up herbs such as dill, tarragon, mint and parsley. So salads or chicken with an herb crust or Salmon Gravadlax would be great. If you want to push the boat out a bit Asian-fusion or Vietnamese food will make for an interesting pairing.
Pinot Gris, a mutation of Pinot Noir, makes anything from dry to richly sweet white wine. Grown throughout Europe, it’s probably best known for the wines it produces from Alsace and of course the wines from Northern Italy where it is very familiarly known to us here in Ireland as Pinot Grigio. The ‘Pinot Grigio’ style we see from Italy is the lightest and most neutral wine it produces, light refreshing wines showing pear fruit and white blossoms on the nose, generally low in acid and the better ones will have a touch of minerality. Pair with seafood pasta dishes like Spaghetti Alle Vongole(Clams) orSeafood Tostadas. A fuller bodied Pinot Grigio will even stand up to a Carbonara, but an Italian one without the cream!
Try Contessa Camilla Pinot Grigio, Veneto Italy
Arguably the finest Pinot Gris wines come from the Alsace region of France, where along with Riesling and Gewürztraminer it is regarded as one of the region's 'noble' white wine grapes. Here it produces aromatic dry wines, full-bodied with a honeyed character and a spicy perfume on the nose, markedly different to the Pinot Grigio style it produces in Italy. In Alsace its big enough to often be matched with pâté and creamy sauces but it also pairs particularly well with smoked and spicy foods. Smoked Salmon, Paté or Spicy Fish Cakes.
Try the too gorgeous Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2012
The New World are producing both Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio styles. Some of more merit than others.
Try Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Gris from Marlborough New Zealand for an impressive example.
Crisp Italian Whites
Greco di Tufo
This gorgeous wine comes from the hills of Campania in Italy, one of the most exciting areas for white wines. This one is lemon-gold in colour with a perfume of ripe pears and a honeyed, almond note. Stone fruit flavours of yellow peaches, a crisp, mineral character on the palate and a mouth-filling body and good length. This is up there with my favourite Spring/Summery wines, I’d drink it any time really but the fruit aromas come alive for me with the sun peaking out and paired with grilled sea bass or if you want to go full Italian, pair with Panzerotti, little Italian fried pastries with various fillings.
Try Vesevo Greco di Tufo Campania Italy
A particularly interesting Italian white wine that causes some confusion as it happens to have a name twin. Pecorino is a ewe's milk cheese from Italy, the name a derivation of pecora, the Italian word for 'sheep'. But Pecorino is also the name of an ancient Italian wine grape native to the eastern Adriatic coast, particularly the regions of Marche and Abruzzo, named such due to the sheep that are partial to snacking on them. The wines made from these grapes have seen an upsurge in popularity recently, probably because of the complex flavours of citrus, spice and stone fruit as well as a slight saltiness on the finish in the good ones.
Try Collefrisio Pecorino Abruzzo Italy.
Fresh white melon on the nose, with a wonderfully balanced palate of acidity and white stone fruit and a clean harmonious finish. Jancis Robinson describes it as 'characterful' wine.
The popularity of Prosecco has risen sharply in the last few years, outstripping Champagne as the go to sparkling for parties and gifts. Which isn’t that surprising when you look at the price advantage, you can usually get a good one for under €15, and the fact that the flavour and style of the wine is suitable to a lot of palates. While still a dry wine, it tends to be a little sweeter than Champagne or Cava, it has a rounder, creamier mouth-feel and a soft fruitiness that is pleasing. The most one is likely to spend on a Prosecco at a push is €17 or €18 and even that is far less than one might spend on the cheapest Champagne, of which I would certainly prefer the former.
Jelly and Ice-cream makes for a jolly pairing, try a rhubarb jelly or blood-orange and Campari jelly, which I would prefer to Easter Eggs.
Rosé is very versatile but often over looked as it seems to some to fall between two stools. Like any other type of wine, rosé comes in different styles from the very pale to deep-coloured wines which are more like a red and varies from dry to the very fruity. If you’re planning a bank holiday BBQ a fuller-bodied Rosé with some sweetness present would pick up the rich, sweet and charred flavours of the barbecued meats. and more refreshing a pairing than big reds. Below is a good and reasonably loose guide to Rosé food pairing by Fiona Beckett of the Guardian.
“If your rosé is very pale and dry like a Côtes de Provence you can treat it like a dry crisp white. That means that by and large it will go with raw and lightly cooked seafood and vegetables
If it’s dry but darker and more fruity such as rosés from the southern Rhone and Languedoc it will work with slightly more robust versions of those dishes: say grilled prawns or roast red peppers.
If it’s very dark indeed in colour such as many rosés you find from the New World the chances are it will be made from riper grapes and allowed longer skin contact which will make it taste stronger and sweeter. In this case you could treat it more like a fruity red. Barbecued meats would be an obvious pairing
If it’s light but medium-dry like a White Zinfandel or a Rosé d’Anjou it will lend itself well to lightly spiced dishes such as Chinese or South-East Asian food as well as fruity salads such as chicken with peaches or duck with fresh berries.”
Try Castillo Del Moro Rose
Light Juicy Reds Not to be outdone by the whites some of the lighter, juicy reds go wonderfully with Spring and Summer dishes and outdoor dining.
Pinot Noir New World producers are giving us some very fine examples of Pinot Noir with all the subtle complexity of flavour of an old world offering but with refreshing intensity of fruit that makes for delicious drinking with a BBQ feast, charred chicken, spare ribs, lamb. Serve it very slightly chilled to cut through the meaty flavours.
Alternatively it will pair wonderfully well with roast chicken, pork or roast lamb if you’re planning a Bank Holiday Roast dinner this weekend.
Try Zephyr Pinot Noir, Marlborough New Zealand
Craggy Range Te Muna Pinot Noir , Martinborough New Zealand