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Ten Foolproof Wine Pairings for Spring Dishes

A playbook for your next wine run.


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Photo: Dana McMahan/Creative Commons

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Ryme Cellars Vermentino.

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Now that it’s spring, beef stew and potatoes have made way for fried fish tacos and asparagus. Some hearty pairings, like bold red wine and lamb, are just as great this time of year as they are in the fall. But most of the fresh flavors of spring beg for crisp, zesty, bubbly chilled wine. Here are a few of our favorite spring pairings to get you ready for the bounty ahead. 

Dish: Grilled salmon or crab
Wines: Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $25.99; Heitz Cellars Grignolino Rosé, $24 
Why they pair: Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay is a rich wine that plays well with the bold flavors of grilled salmon, and its creaminess will enhance the texture of the fish, especially with a little char. The zesty Heitz rosé, on the other hand, will cut through the fattiness of the salmon with bright acidity and bring a touch of spring to any dish with its flavors of orange peel and tart berries. Both wines also go well with crab: The chardonnay acts almost like a butter sauce, while the rosé is more like a squeeze of citrus that accentuates the crab’s sweeter flavors. 

Dish: Fried fish tacos and french fries 
Wines: Gloria Ferrer Blanc De Noirs, $22; Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut Rosé, $58  
Why they pair: Champagne is said to have four out of the five basic tastes, lacking only saltiness. So the obvious thing to do here is make sure you pick something nice and salty so you can get all of your tastebuds tingling. You could go with fried chicken and avoid all the heavy sauces, or go straight to the fried fish tacos and fries because the effervescence of both of these slightly sweet sparkling pink wines will cut through the rich fried flavors, balance the saltiness, and even cool down the spice of hot sauce. 

Dish: Pork loin, pork tacos, or lamb

Wines: Nottingham Cellars “Norm” Grenache, $42; Hess Collection Lion Tamer, $40; Inglenook Cabernet, $75
Why they pair: Grenache’s weightiness, spice, and bursts of cherry make a wonderful counterpoint to lightly gamy pork flavors. Think of it almost like a very light barbecue sauce, which will also do a nice job of covering up any overcooking or underseasoning. If you’re cooking something a bit saltier, go for the Hess Collection Lion Tamer. This massive, juicy wine will take your tacos to the next level, as long as they aren’t too spicy (red wine plus spicy food equals a lot of heat and very little flavor). If it’s Easter or another special occasion and you’ve got lamb, spend a little more and go with a bottle of Inglenook Cabernet. You’ll impress everyone with this complex, silky, spicy wine that’s laden with berry flavors. While it won’t cover up flaws in the cooking, it’ll enhance the flavors of the meat without overpowering it or subduing any sauces. 

Dish: Asparagus, artichoke, or fresh greens

Wines: Ryme Cellars Vermentino, $25; Tom Gore Sauvignon Blanc, $15 
Why they pair: Strong veggies like asparagus will often overpower wines and leave them bland and fruitless. So what you need are bright, zesty wines with enough fruit to bring flavor to the dish. Vermentino fits the bill well, and Ryme Cellars’ Vermentino has enough peach and lemon to hold its own (plus a hint of herbiness that will play well with the greens). Tom Gore Sauvignon Blanc lacks those herbaceous notes, but its bright, acidic citrus flavors will complement asparagus, artichokes, or spring greens like a squeeze of fresh lemon.  

Dish: Duck (or game hen) with mushrooms
Wines: Ferrari-Carano Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, $38; DeLoach Vineyards OFS Pinot Noir, $40 
Why they pair: The earthiness of the Ferrari-Carano pinot noir makes it a natural pairing with mushrooms—it’ll bring out all the forest-floor flavors. The raspberry and cherry aromas in this light pinot also make it ideal for duck, game hen, and other more delicate fowl that do well with a little sweetness. The ripe fruit and bright acidity of the DeLoach Vineyards also makes for a natural pairing with the gamey flavors of duck and hen. Plus, the medium body of this particular wine complements the meatiness of the duck as well as more flavorful cuts of red meat. 


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