Maybe it’s just me, but seeing brightly colored Spring flowers at my local market and the first of the season vegetables has given me the proverbial spring in my step. Local artichokes, asparagus, ramps, and more are brightening up my dinner table and has me reaching for crisp, unoaked white wines that have elevated acidity, herbal notes, noted minerality, and maybe complexity from lees aging. Perhaps, they are a little bit like liquid Spring sunshine.
First of the season asparagus and artichokes brings me to wines with herbal or vegetal notes such as Grüner Vetliner from Austria, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, or even an Etna Bianco from Sicily. Grüner Vetliner expressing more of the herbal and subtly vegetal side with its peppery white radish note that holds its own with asparagus. A mercurial, but delicious vegetable that proves to be challenge for wine pairing, it has sulfuric compounds that can make a wine taste metallic; Knoll, F X Pichler, and Hiedler are a few of the many excellent wineries. A bright New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with its high acid, pronounced herbal and vegetal notes of fresh grass and bell peppers makes a great pairing - Saint Clair, Craggy Range, and Dog Point are some producers to look out for. Artichokes have a chemical in them called cynarin that causes everything to taste sweeter, making it an interesting vegetable to pair wine with. Try a dry white like the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or a citrus and mineral driven Catarratto based Etna Bianco, from Sicily; its savory and herbal palate can be a refreshing pairing - Tornatore, Benati, and Alta Morra are fantastic producers.
Ramps are ephemeral treats that pairs happily with the Etna Bianco noted above and can take on wines that show a bit of a richer mid palate due to lees ageing. When a wine is allowed to rest on the dead yeast from the fermentation process, it can add tremendous richness, nuttiness, and umami to the wine – making it a compelling pairing for the complexity of the ramps. Muscadet Sévre-et Maine can be an exceptional option, made from the Melon grape and hailing from the Loire region in France - it is high in acid, citrus driven, and nuanced because of the lees. Producers to look for are Domaine Michel Brégeon and Domaine de la Pepiere. Another wine to consider would be a Pinot Gris, such as Jermann’s from Northern Italy, it is deeply complex due to the lees ageing and exceptional microclimate that allows for citrus, stone fruit notes, and minerality.
Grilling the vegetables adds another dynamic and the wines above would all do well - however, do consider a Greco di Tufo. Made from the Greco grape and hailing from volcanic soil of Campania, this wine has a richness of tree fruit, citrus, and acacia that embraces the enhanced flavor from grilling with a clean mineral driven finish to keep the pairing refreshing. Feudi di San Gregorio and Mastroberandino are both excellent producers.
Please inquire with Mariano to source the wines noted above! As always, Cheers!