Celebrate the season with these wine and food pairing tips
WINE AND FOOD go hand in hand any time of year, but sometimes finding the perfect pairing can be a challenge with the changing of the seasons. Along with longer days and blooming flowers, spring brings a plethora of colorful produce to our local markets—from greens and fragrant herbs to vibrant citrus and juicy berries—all begging to take center stage on your plate. When it comes to matching spring staples with wine, however, these delicious and healthy offerings are notoriously difficult to pair. With the help of a few simple pairing guidelines, and inspiring ways local chefs and food bloggers utilize spring’s variety of produce, you’ll be ready to take on the season’s bounty of food and wine in no time.
In the world of wine and food pairing, there are no black and white rules. In fact, there are no strict rules at all. Ultimately, you should drink what you like. However, if you’ve ever experienced a perfect pairing (or a terrible one for that matter), you know that some pairings are better than others. To help elevate a meal with wine pairings this spring, try matching the weight of the wine to the weight of the food. Lighter, more delicate foods work well with lighter wines because neither is dominating the other in body or weight. It’s also helpful to seek similar flavor profiles. Enhancing a certain flavor in the food by finding a similar flavor in the wine, or vice versa, helps find a nice balance of complementary flavors between what you’re eating and drinking. Another bit of advice is to pair acidic food with higher-acid wine; otherwise, the wine may taste flat. For this reason, crisp whites, refreshing rosés and sparkling wines are all worthy candidates for springtime fare, such as green salads dressed with vinaigrette and seasonal vegetables with a splash of lemon.
Local private chef and food blogger Denisse Salinas of Le Petit Chef loves to utilize spring greens for a healthy spin on traditional flatbread. For her zucchini crust flatbread, made using shredded zucchini, parmesan cheese, egg, chickpea flour and fresh herbs, Salinas tops it with goat cheese, raw thinly shaved asparagus, micro greens, herbs and even edible flowers. “It’s an ideal canvas for all sorts of toppings, but peak-season shaved asparagus and edible flowers, like nasturtium, give this dish a spring-forward feel.” This flatbread is an ideal match for a crisp, refreshing dry white wine like sauvignon blanc or gruner veltliner, which have plenty of herbaceous vegetal components and citrus notes that balance the similar green, tart flavor profiles of the dish. Adds Salinas, “The crisp, clean flavors of the raw vegetables and nasturtium, and the lemony tang from the goat and parmesan cheeses beg for a white wine with complementary characteristics.”
Private chef and cookbook author Robin Goldstein also finds inspiration from the herbs and greens that flourish this time of year. “I love using delicate soft herbs and lettuces in salads when they are very young and fragrant in spring,” shares Goldstein. In her latest cookbook, Simply Delicious Wine Country Recipes, Goldstein shares her recipe for cucumber grapefruit crab salad—a simple, yet vibrant seafood salad ideal as a light spring meal. “Using the flavors of honey and lime with succulent crab, bright citrus from the grapefruit and fresh spring herbs like chives, dill and parsley, this is a refreshing and light salad…with no cooking involved!” While the herbal and citrus notes of sauvignon blanc make it a nice pairing, a lean mineral-driven chenin blanc or light, fruity sparkling wine, such as prosecco, would also complement the dish.
“Coming out of the long winter months, spring represents sunshine and growth, translating into lighter and fresher ingredients and recipes,” shares blogger and recipe developer Becky Sue Wilberding of Baking The Goods, who enjoys looking beyond spring’s greens for inspiration in the kitchen. “In my eyes, there is no combination of flavors that represents spring more strongly than strawberry and rhubarb,” she says. Her recipe for rhubarb rose and strawberry pistachio galettes impresses with both flavor and presentation, transforming ribbons of rhubarb into delicate roses she simmers in rose water syrup, layered atop sweet strawberries in a flaky crust made with pistachios, flour and butter. “This rustic and refined dessert looks and tastes like spring,” adds Wilberding. “I can’t help but think pink when selecting wines to pair with it.” A rosé with a touch of sweet red fruit would indeed be a wonderful addition, not only to complement the pink-hued roses of the galette, but also to balance its fruity and floral flavors.
Of course, there is no one pairing that works for everyone, but with these ideas for making use of spring’s best and brightest flavors, you’ll be able to plan your next feast or simple gathering feeling inspired by the season.
This story was originally published in the spring 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.