Spring Produce & Wine Pairing
by A Vine Romance
We did it. We survived winter. We can look forward to longer days and warmer nights. We no longer wake up and end our workday in darkness. Spring is here.
It’s the beginning of the growing season with the first local produce being available. Many spring fruits and vegetables have pronounced flavours that make them notoriously difficult to pair with wine but fear not—where there’s vino, there’s a way! Here are some of our favourite County wines matched with some of the season’s most popular produce.
Priya: Dessert is usually the end of the meal but to me, nothing screams ‘spring’ more loudly than strawberry rhubarb pie and a nice rose! Many would think of pairing a sweet desert wine with desert but we have some interesting options for you, none of which are ‘sweet’.
Alex: Let’s just say strawberry rhubarb pie is not an easy thing to pair because you need a fresh style of wine to deal with the acidity of strawberry and with rhubarb you have a vegetal component that detracts from the overall sweetness of the pie so what you need is a light to medium-sweet wine with a lot of fruit and good acidity.
Priya: That’s a tall order and one we felt would be hard pressed to find one wine to meet the challenge, let alone 3! What’s surprising here is that these 3 wines are very different from one another yet each one complements this pie in it’s own, unique way.
Alex: Our first pick is the 2012 Brut Rose from Grange of Prince Edward (or ‘Grange’ for short) at $35. I’m so surprised this works. The bubbles work as a perfect palate cleanser, and the bottle aging gives a sweeter, balsamic note to the fruit therefore allowing it to pair nicely with the pie. It also has a slightly herbal edge that gels with rhubarb.
Priya: I want to amend my initial comment above to this: Nothing screams ‘spring’ more loudly than strawberry rhubarb pie and a sparkling rose! If I had my way, I would drink only rose all season long. On top of Alex’s points above I felt the creaminess of the wine cut through the tart sweetness of the pie creating a perfect balance.
Alex: This is a prime example of ‘contrast pairing’, which is usually a more difficult, and oftentimes more rewarding route to take.
Priya: As they say, opposites attract! Our other 2 matches for this pie are both from Huff Estates. The first is their Off Dry Riesling ($20) VINTAGE??
Alex: This Riesling is off dry, peachy and floral and while the fruit notes are not the same as those in the pie, the level of sweetness, freshness and acidity creates fine harmony.
Priya: Huff’s 2016 First Frost Vidal ($30) is an example of ‘like meets like’. There is more sugar in this wine, which will appeal to those who are looking for more of a desert wine style.
Alex: Next up is arugula, which is challenging because it has a grassy, herbal component and a nutty, black pepper finish. The easiest style to complement this spring green is a sparkling wine produced in the champagne method and we have two of these options for you--the 2011 Traditional Method Brut from Grange ($30) and the Peter H. Huff 2011 Brut ($40). Both displayed aged characters on the nose of brioche, dried yellow apple and Brazil nut. Both had a mellow fizz as well, which did not overpower the arugula yet matched its freshness.
Priya: Grange’s 2012 Northfield Cabernet Franc was another great match. This wine has nice peppery notes that blend easily into the pepper of the arugula itself. Similarly, Huff’s 2014 Pinot Noir Reserve ($35) has a ripe fruitiness with a hint of pepper in the background that extends it’s hand across the aisle to interlace fingers with the arugula.
Alex: Yes, Priya, this is a very spicy-floral pinot with blackberry and plum aromatics. It’s very pure on the palate with quite a bit of charm and pairs nicely with this nutty green.
Priya: Let’s move on to what is perhaps the quintessential spring vegetable, the noble asparagus! It’s the metallic edge to this one that makes it tough to pair.
Alex: For asparagus we had to look to the ‘star’ of white wines when it comes to food-friendly vino and that is Riesling. Stanners’ 2014 Riesling ($$$) is particularly well suited to asparagus given its curious, green licorice and lemony nose and super tart, fresh palate.
Priya: I thought the exact same thing, that the sweetness of the asparagus was perfectly offset by the tartness of the Riesling.
Alex: Beets often pose a problem for wine pairings as well due to their robust, earthy flavor coupled with sweet purple fruit notes. A wine that worked well here is one that displayed similar notes. Stanners’ 2014 Barrel Select Pinot Noir ($$$$) melds very well with the beets as they bring out its floral elements and the earthy notes in both matches nicely with one another. This wine has enough depth to stand up to the explosive finish of the beets.
Priya: On top of that I felt that the smoothness of this Pinot Noir made the beets taste less acidic and had a great balancing effect.
Alex: You can’t talk about spring produce and leave artichoke out of the conversation!
Priya: You really are a big fan of this crazy vegetable. We served it in simple pasta with roasted pine nuts, fresh cherry tomatoes and grated lemon zest.
Alex: Chardonnay was king here. You’re looking for a wine with a full, round body, a creamy texture, a lot of acid but without a lot of oak. Huff’s 2014 South Bay Vineyard Chardonnay ($30) and Stanners’ 2015 Prince Edward County Chardonnay ($$$) both fit the bill here.
Priya: The buttery quality of these wines were such a natural extension of the mild flavor of the artichokes while the starch in the pasta further accentuated the wine’s creamy texture.
All in all, this is the perfect time to take a drive out to wine country, pick up some local produce and local wines and gather around the dinner table with friends and family. The cool climate and fresh, tart nature of PEC wines make them ideal complements to spring produce.