Although I love long-braised and roasted foods and the complex red wines one drinks with them, I’m ready for the flavors of spring. We’ve had an approximation of the weather, but the real harbingers of spring—asparagus, scallions, tender salad greens and new potatoes—are slower in coming. And of course spring foods call for spring wines. If you tend to “drink what you drink” and stick to the same few wines, why not consider choosing the wines you consume to better fit the foods and moods of the new season. April in Kansas City certainly takes us in a lighter direction. The first flavors of this palate-refreshing season tend to be delicate, tinged with a hint of vegetal sweetness, and frequently light notes of bitterness. Vegetal white wines with more acidity like sauvignon blanc are an easy and natural companion, but what about something more off the beaten path? Here are a few suggestions to set you on course.
Consider the 2016 Zolo Torrontes from Mendoza, Argentina. The Torrontes grape is considered the Argentine wine grape. The Zolo is a fine example, which exhibits the tropical aromas and good acidity expected from this varietal. The nose is reminiscent of the floral fruit of a Moscato and would pair well with lighter spicy foods. It would be a lovely companion to a salad of raw asparagus, our local Baetje Farms Bloomsdale aged goat cheese, and a dish of warm new potatoes finished with butter and spring herbs. It also has an unexpectedly long finish for a wine that is so light in appearance.
The 2015 Leth Steinagrund Grüner Veltliner is made with a grape indigenous to Austria, the most widely planted varietal that’s used in Austria’s best-known wines. The Leth family is known for its pride of terroir and celebration of indigenous varieties of grape—they even maintain a living grape museum with more than 150 ancient varietals. Their love of tradition is evident in this light, peppery wine with a beautifully balanced acidity that seems to sparkle. And it truly shines when consumed with food. Accompanying a light broth of herbs and green garlic over grilled bread and a poached egg, the nose—subtle compared to the Torrontes—seemed to expand with apricots, lemon and white pepper. It would be excellent with lobster, scallops or shrimp as well.
If you’re looking for something more familiar for your springtime foray, consider a chardonnay in the more elegant style—not one of those that beats you over the head with New World buttery oak. The 2015 Truchard Chardonnay Carneros, Napa Valley, is a wonderful domestic choice.
The Truchard story is one of those great American immigrant dreams coming true—two brothers leave Lyon, France in search of a better life, land in Texas, generations later land in San Francisco and eventually Carneros. The rest is a natural evolution of a family with a love of viticulture to a luscious, yet surprisingly clean and light chardonnay. The nose has floral aromas, tropical notes like pineapple and a bit of spice; the flavors of honeyed apples, pears, and lemon are enhanced by a crisp acidity that makes you want to go back for more. Truchard Chardonnay definitely pairs with the richer flavors of spring, and I found it an excellent companion to a soft scramble of prosciutto, asparagus and eggs atop smoky grilled bread. And like the other wines, a best friend to the Bloomsdale cheese.
Side by side, these wines have a great deal in common and proved a rousing source of debate. For my fellow tasters, the wines were all pale in color like spring, and they had an apparent taste of alcohol, but that is where our agreement ended. Which wine paired best with which food, which aromas and flavors were most apparent—this is the fun of exploring wine with friends. It’s also a way to embrace the essence of the season and savor the verdancy, spice and bittersweet arrival of another Midwestern spring.