Springtime ushers in a season of culinary celebration for those who love fresh vegetables. What better way to revel in the arrival of your favorite farmer’s market produce than with a glass of wine? Pairing with vegetables requires special consideration for their unique characteristics. This post will provide some wine pairings and food ideas to help you brush off the fading chill of winter and embrace the sun and emerging warmth of spring.
Watercress Salad with Toasted Almonds and Avocado – Sancerre
This salad combines the tender greens of watercress with the protein of nuts and fat of avocado for a salad that is able to satisfy as either an appetizer or standalone dish. I like to use a simple red wine vinaigrette as dressing. Toss the greens and almonds with the vinaigrette and serve the avocado in larger chunks on the side for contrast. You’ll further improve the salad with Sauvignon Blanc from the Sancerre area in the Loire Valley of France. These white wines have a light body and crisp acidity but are packed with citrus and mineral flavor that will work alongside the dressing to bring lift and aromatic complexity to the dish.
Roasted Carrots with Fresh Herbs – Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands
These days, it’s easier than ever to find heirloom carrots in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Arranging an assortment of carrots on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, and black pepper before baking will provide you with a dish that’s as visually striking as it is aromatic and enticing. I like to finish the dish with roughly chopped fresh herbs like the famous combination of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Remember, you don’t need to have all of them on hand. Any combination will bring aromatic diversity and color to the already attractive dish. Serve with Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands in California where cool, Pacific breezes from Monterey Bay provide an almost-European microclimate for production of light, bright wines. Look for a Chardonnay that has minimal or no oak influence to overshadow fresh, primary fruit flavors in the wine. At best, these wines will have a crisp lemon character with notes of green apple, pear, along with a long list of possible aromas including papaya, banana, almond, ginger, and chamomile.
Fresh Chickpeas and Asparagus with Tahini Dressing – Fronsac
Though most of us think of chickpeas in their dried form as a year-round food, their harvest occurs in the spring when they’re soft and green resembling peas or fava beans. Serving fresh chickpeas with asparagus and tahini dressing makes for a dish that’s green and vibrant while being filling and protein dense enough to have as an entree. Pair with a Right Bank Bordeaux blend from the underrated area of Fronsac where the Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes thrive. These elegant grapes are the least tannic in the region though they can be blended with one or more of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Petit Verdot. Bordeaux reds tend to be very dry with chewy tannins, crisp red and black fruit and non-fruit notes of graphite, forest floor, and tobacco. Cabernet Franc, in particular, has a flavor often described as “green” and compared with bell peppers that will harmonize beautifully with the dish.
Linguini with Morel Mushrooms, Peas, and Ramps – Barbera
Morels, for me, are the most tempting mushrooms. I wait for them anxiously each year and can’t get enough of them in their short spring season. They have a wholesome, satisfying richness that makes them worth the price for a few pounds each year. Sautée them down slowly with olive oil until they have lost half or more of their moisture to concentrate their flavor, then add ramps and peas before tossing in the linguini. The color of the peas with the pungent onion-like flavor of the ramps will provide a backdrop for the morels to shine and showcase the seasonality of the dish. Pair with a glass of northern Italian Barbera, a grape with a similar taste profile to New World Cabernet Sauvignon in blind tastings. Barbera has a medium-to-full body with bright acidity and moderate tannins beside succulent flavors of blackberry and plum. The wine will frame the taste of the dish without overwhelming it – enhancing this Italian inspired celebration of the season.
Rhubarb Raspberry Crumble – Ruby Port
The rhubarb plant may be most appreciated in colder climates where gardeners have fewer options about what to grow in the spring, but no matter where you live, you should give it a try. Rather than making an entire pie, simply start with a pie filling consisting of rhubarb, raspberries, coconut oil, and sugar or honey in a baking dish, and cover with sugar, oatmeal, and cinnamon. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make and how much everyone will love it, especially when paired with a glass of ruby Port. Port is a sweet, high-alcohol red wine from Portugal. The ruby variety is not aged in oak and therefore has a predominantly fruity flavor of candied berries and cherries. The pairing of your crumble and wine will provide a decadent, jubilant finale to your springtime meal.