Springtime. The season of rebirth. Reset. Renew. Re-up. How about, refill, as in the glass, that is. Yes, good people. I’m talking about what many consider to be the best time of year to sip. But the question is, just what should be sipped? With this latest installment of Notes From The Concrete Terroir, I’d like to highlight five perfect wines to enjoy during this, the most splendid of the four seasons to indulge in our favorite pasttime.
Let’s just say that I’m saving the best for first, as no other varietal better exemplifies springtime in a glass than rosé. Typically a pale pink, or even sometimes an almost salmon-like in color – which for the unfamiliar, is due to lesser amounts of skin contact from the grapes – a glass of rosé is akin to making your palate sing much in the same way the birds do after having been silently MIA for the previous 3-6 months. And an interesting bottle to reach for, rather than going for something from the standard issue region of Provence, France, is actually produced out of Nelson, New Zealand, by the good folks at Middle Earth. Made from Pinot Meunier, this particular rose is light, crisp, and full of red berry notes. Simply put, you will be in wine drinking heaven.
Best To Have When: There is a gentle breeze blowing, and the cherry blossoms are both in the trees and on the ground all around you.
Best To Pair With: A table on the sidewalk with a view of said cherry blossoms, a meat and cheese board, calamari and/or octopus salad.
No, I’m not talking about the overly buttery or overly oaky kinds of Chardonnay that you might be associating with whenever this grape comes to mind. Rather, think more briny, as in the perfect wine to pair with that happy hour raw bar you’ve been eyeing every time you pass your favorite home to all things shellfish. And French Chardonnay is just the thing. For the uninitiated, a good, solid one to start with is the Mancey Les Classiques from Macon-Villages, known to produce some of the best Chardonnays in the World. Round, without being full, this Mancey offering is a great way to put all those misconceptions about Chardonnay behind you.
Best To Have When: You get out of work early. You get out of work late. You play hooky, and skip out of work altogether.
Best To Pair With: An old friend you haven’t caught up with in a while, or better yet, a friendly stranger you just met. A raw bar. Clams Casino, mussels and frites.
While I’m on the subject of Chardonnay, I would be remiss if I did not mention Chablis, which is really just taking Chardonnay, and taking it up a notch or two, combining more acidity with less fruit. And the Julien Ballard Chablis is just the right white Burgundy for the months between April to June (but really, any time of year!). Bright, and effervescent sans the bubbles, when you are feeling like taking things a little further on your wine journey, then instead of grabbing a medium shelf Char, why not take things one more step up, and ask for a glass (or for that matter, a whole bottle) of Chablis?!
Best To Have When: It’s time to treat yourself. You are feeling fancy. Rather, I should say, fancier.
Best To Pair With: A rooftop. A backyard. A Tuna Nicoise. A new you.
Yet another wine from France, completing a Spring trifecta, just like the perfect bet on the Triple Crown…only this time from the Loire Valley. And while pretty much every oenophile is well aware of Sancerre, the novice tippler might confuse Sancerre, the region, as being the grape that Sancerre is derived from. However, this is not so – the grape used to make Sancerre is Sauvignon Blanc. I make mention of this because it is significant to spring, as I can’t think of another noble white grape that, once the winter clouds finally part ways to make room for a more optimistic set of days and nights, makes my mouth water more than Sav Blanc/Sancerre. And Domaine Pascal Balland Sancerre is simply a Sancerre in the most classic sense. Light and refreshing, yet full of zest and notes of grapefruit, this is what you want to be drinking just as you realize that you’ve officially made it through another winter .
Best To Have When: You have lost all concept of time. You found an empty seat at the bar, or an empty table beside an open window, or a grassy field and a picnic basket anywhere.
Best To Pair With: Turning off all electronic devices, a good book you’ve been yearning to crack open, a toasted baguette with green apple and brie.
Pinot Blanc (And Viogner)
Pinot Blanc on its own is pretty wonderful. But when you take PB and then blend it with another terrific white varietal, say Viogner, you just may have discovered the secret to all things spectacular. Stellar even. And that’s exactly what the winemakers behind Valley Of The Moon’s “Bright Side Of The Moon” have done. This medium-bodied white wine, in much the same way that its name implies, is full of vibrancy and floral flavors. Very symbolic of spring, with all its emerging light and running from the rest of the year glory. In fact, a more apt name for this particular wine could be Bright Side Of The Spring Moon.
Best To Have When: You’ve decided to hang a “Do Not Disturb Sign” on the rest of your life.
Best To Pair With: Pan-roasted chicken, grilled Sea Bass. Plenty of stars in the sky/stars in your eyes.
And there you have it. Five Wines to help soak in the three months of the year when everything seems possible. Including the possibility of drinking more wine!
Peter “Blue” Zusman is an artist and wine & spirits enthusiast living in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He places equal importance on both a finely-aged single malt and a medium bodied, earthy red. Summer is always about Provence. He was formerly a contributing wine writer at grapecollective.com.