Say goodbye to the root vegetables, squashes, kale and cabbage of winter; it’s time to celebrate spring with a raft of fresh seasonal ingredients. Gardens (literally) spring into life at this time of year, offering up leafy crops of spring greens, spinach, watercress, spring onions and wild garlic.
Seasonal spring dishes are generally lighter: think tender green asparagus spears with salmon and Hollandaise sauce or minted new potatoes served alongside spring lamb. So they call for fresher styles of wines: from crisp whites and dry rosés to light, fruit-driven reds such as Pinot Noir.
If you’re wondering what bottles should be in your wine rack for spring, read on to find suggestions for pairing with a selection of spring ingredients.
In season from April to June, asparagus is considered a notoriously difficult match with wines. However, there are plenty of wines that do work well with asparagus – particularly when you take into account how it’s cooked and what other ingredients are served with it.
Several ingredients make natural partners for asparagus – including eggs. Asparagus with poached eggs is a classic brunch combo and for a decadent pairing – especially if your plate is topped with Hollandaise sauce – try a non-vintage Champagne or cool-climate New World Sparkling Chardonnay.
The salmon fishing season starts in May and runs right through summer to September. As an ingredient salmon is a fairly versatile fish, so wine matches will depend on how you cook it.
The minerality and herbaceous notes of a classic French Sauvignon Blanc, such as Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire Valley, will match well with salmon cooked with herbs or citrus. If the salmon is served with a buttery or creamy sauce, try a Chardonnay with a bit of oak to highlight the fish.
If you’re serving seasonal asparagus with salmon try an Albariño from Rías Baixas on Spain’s Atlantic coast with grassy, herbaceous notes to match the asparagus, but riper citrus and stone fruit to complement the salmon.
Salmon is an ingredient that can easily handle spices, from chilli and ginger to fiery wasabi. Choose a wine with some sweetness to balance the heat of spicy salmon dishes, such as an exotic off-dry Pinot Gris or Gewürztraminer from Alsace or an off-dry German Riesling.
It’s a myth that red wine never matches fish, and if your salmon is seared, a chilled New World Pinot Noir will offer plenty of pairing pleasure.
Pinot Noir is also one of the classic wine matches for lamb, which is at its most tender in late spring and early summer. This is when young lambs born in winter can be sent to market (by definition a ‘spring lamb’ is a sheep that’s under one year old).
This lighter, tender lamb meat needs a wine that won’t overpower its delicate flavours and soft texture. The fresher styles of Pinot Noir from cooler climate regions can combine lovely red berry fruit balanced by earthy notes, fine tannins and good natural acidity. Try German Pinot Noir – known locally as Spätburgunder – or fresh Pinots from New Zealand.
Burgundy fans could look to less-known areas on the up, such as Rully or Fixin at the northern end of the Côte de Nuits, and fresher styles from Givry further south, in the Côte Chalonnaise. Some top producers have outposts in these regions – and it’s also worth looking at Bourgogne Rouge from the best growers in general.
As an alternative to Pinot, try a weighty rosé such as Tavel or Bandol from the south of France. Or if you’re a fan of bubbles, a vintage rosé Champagne makes a deliciously decadent match for spring lamb.
As temperatures start to rise in spring, rhubarb plants wake from their winter dormancy and their delicious pink stalks can be harvested from March and April onwards. Spring is the best time of year for rhubarb; in hot summers growth will slow down and can even stop.
When it comes to wine pairing, it’s the sour tang of rhubarb – caused by oxalic acid – that needs to be tamed and can make many dry wines taste harsh. The key is to go for a wine with some sweetness, as the residual sugar will balance that acidity.
Late harvest wines – from classic styles such as Sauternes to New World styles like Late Harvest Torrontes from Argentina, with tropical honeyed notes, will complement poached rhubarb served with vanilla ice cream, yogurt or crème fraiche.
Rhubarb and custard together are the sweet-and-sour star in several classic British puddings. Try simply roasted rhubarb and custard with an Italian Vin Santo. Or with rhubarb crumble and custard choose a sweet peachy German Riesling Auslese, which has enough acidity to cope with this indulgent pudding. A luxury option would be demi-sec Champagne, a semi-sweet style with honeyed stone fruit flavours, backed by good acidity and a sparkling texture.