With new seasons come new wines styles. It’s both an ancient tradition and a modern trend to change your wine with your season. In wine country, we try to follow this tradition because it makes sense to drink wine based on the weather and because wine often pairs with the foods of the season. Let’s start in the Spring time.
Ahhh, Spring. That glorious time of year when the days get longer and the Sun becomes a major factor of your lifestyle. By May, it’s time to get outside and experience the world. Spring is that breath of fresh air, something new and welcome. For wine lovers, it’s generally time to experience the whites and rose (pr. roh-zay) wines that were made the previous year. In the example of Spring 2012, wines from Harvest 2011 will first be ready to drink. These are lighter style wines, with crisp flavors and acidity. Spring food means fresh fruits and vegetables, salads, light pastas, chicken and fish. Perfect with the wines listed below.
To have your own Spring Fling, chill a few bottles of German Riesling, Austrian Gewurztraminer, California Sauvignon Blanc, South African Chenin Blanc, or Argentinian Torrontes. Rose lovers will admire the Provence wines from South of France and the many new Rose wines from California- made from Syrah, Grenache or Pinot Noir grapes.
Summer time is similar in terms of wine and food, but you can mix up the menu with heavier whites, sparkling wines, and several reds. The first 2011 Chardonnay’s were released earlier this Summer. If you have a preference for bubbles, you can’t go wrong. Formally considered a ‘celebration’ wine, sparkling wine and Champagne are great with afternoon parties and appetizers.
When the grill is out , bring on the spicy reds. Zinfandels, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Malbec, Tempranillo and others are the perfect companion to ribs, steak, burgers, hot dogs, and grilled chicken. The sauces of BBQ play an important role when pairing with wine, so you can’t assume that all BBQ flavors go with all of wines listed above.
Come Fall/Autumn, when the weather cools, we tend to eat a richer food. Often times these are birds, ‘game’ animals, root vegetables, cooked in thicker sauces. During Thanksgiving, America’s classic Fall Feast, we have commonly turned to Burgundy and Pinot Noir for its earthy flavors, seductive profile, and compatibility with many foods. Adopters of quality Zinfandel proclaim its wonders on Turkey Day, because its bright fruits, spiciness and easy to drink character make it a perfect match for all the side dishes of Thanksgiving including mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, stuffing/dressing, Pumpkin Pie, etc.
When winter sets in, the wine profile changes again. We tend to kill, cook and eat larger animals, that are then are smoked or covered in heavy sauces, with lots of starch side dishes. Steak, lamb, cassoulet, pot roast, goulash … generally very rich foods. To match the cuisine and the weather change, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blends, Syrah, Rhone blends, Sangiovese, Brunello, Tempranillo, Rioja, Malbec, Mendoza blends are now the drinks on the table. If you afford it, you can access thousands of high quality wines of this style. Save a few dollars during the week in order to spend more than $ 25.00 per bottle retail on the wine for your Sunday feast. You will be much happier with your meals.
Many of the above recommendations are ‘traditional’, but still relevant today. If you are only just learning about wine and food pairing, try to follow the above model for a few seasons to get the idea. If your favorite wine expert starts raving about Cabernet this Thanksgiving, don’t take their recommendations too seriously.