These Are the Best Wines for Springtime Sipping
Rather than sticking to our same old favorites, changing the wine we drink with the seasons is an opportunity to experience a wider range of varietals and pairings. As the weather warms and our taste buds start to crave wines that are fresh and clean, it's time to start picking out wine for its lightness and simplicity.
Here are a few tips on how to broaden your palate and pick the best whites, rosés, reds, and sparkling wines for the season, according to sommelier Christopher Hoel, founder of Harper's Club and expert wine curator for Wine Insiders and Martha Stewart Wine Co. Pair them with sunglasses, 65 degree days, and the smell of fresh-cut flowers. Pour yourself a glass as you fire up your grill for the first time this year.
The acidity in white wine enhances its refreshing, crisp qualities, making white a go-to in the warmer weather. But not all whites offer the same qualities. When the weather is warmer, Hoel recommends opting for dry whites with high acidity and light to medium bodies as they tend to be crisp and refreshing. "Unoaked wines, such as albariño, sauvignon blanc, or pinot gris have a lighter, fresher taste, so they pair well with springy foods like seafood and poultry dishes," he says. These lighter whites are typically meant to be consumed young when they have the most freshness and fruitiness.
Chablis is another great springtime white. "As an unoaked chardonnay, it still appeals to those who prefer something lighter, with a high-acidity that pairs beautifully with wine-friendly foods, such as a charcuterie board," Hoel says. Unlike its oaked counterparts, Chablis does not have a buttery finish or an overly ripe fruit character. "For something a little less traditional, I'm a fan of albariño from Rias Baixas. It's refreshing and has a minerally, almost salty kick that's absolutely delicious."
Another classic for warm-weather drinking: Rosé. With characteristics of both red and white wines, rosé is an incredibly versatile wine that shouldn't be reserved exclusively for the summer months. "I literally drink rosé all year long," Hoel says. "It's a refreshing choice that pairs well with seasonal foods like spring vegetables, lighter meat proteins or fish and celebrates the sun with notes of red berries, flowers, and citrus."
Because rosés are made in a variety of regions and from a variety of grapes, there are options for every weather. A lighter-colored rosé with 12.5 percent ABV or higher is more likely to be dry and refreshing, whereas darker rosés made from syrah or mourvèdre blends tend to have more weight and are better suited for those chilly spring days.
Sparkling wine doesn't have to be reserved for celebrations. It has many of the same attributes that make sauvignon blanc or rosé ideal for the spring—fresh acidity and clean flavors—while the soft effervescence of the bubbles makes it refreshing and palate-cleansing. Crisp, light sparkling wines pair well with lighter ingredients we tend to crave in the spring, like fresh fruit and greens.
"Good sparkling wine tends to be more expensive than other varieties, but it is possible to find a delicious bottle of bubbles that is affordable," explains Hoel. For everyday use, he recommends looking beyond Champagne, a type of sparkling wine that requires it to be made in the Champagne region of France (typically the most expensive of the sparkling wines). For example, Spanish cava and Italian Franciacorta both make for a delicious, affordable alternative.
Warmer weather doesn't mean giving up red wine. According to Hoel, when chosen correctly, a red wine can be perfect for those brisk spring days. "Skip the cabernet and look for medium- to lighter-bodied reds that have higher acidity and lower tannin," he says. Cabernet's tannin levels generally gives it a heavier tasting profile, and its "drying" effect on the palate is heartier and less refreshing. Wines such as pinot noir, tempranillo, or grenache are excellent for enjoying with lighter spring fare or even the heartier winter foods we aren't quite ready to move on from.
For those warmer spring days, lighter reds can be enhanced when served slightly chilled or with to help bring out the more subtle floral notes.
Springtime Serving Tips
Temperature is a crucial aspect in serving wines, yet we often serve whites and rosés too cold and reds too warm. Whites and rosés that have been removed from the fridge approximately 15 minutes before serving have enhanced flavor while still achieving a crisp mouthfeel. For red wine, 30 minutes in the fridge before serving can enhance the floral flavors. Be careful not to go overboard: An over-chilled wine of any color will lose its more delicate tasting notes.
"And when pairing wines with food, it helps to visualize the weight of the dish," explains Hoel. For example, a delicate, nuanced dish like a seasoned white fish is best complemented by a light, subtle wine like a Vinho Verde. On the other hand, more complex, heavy dishes like lamb are brought to life with bold wines like a Bordeaux. However, at the end of the day the most important question is simple: What do you love to drink?