With the beginning of better weather, we’re itching to get outside and enjoy some al fresco dining. It’s time to get creative with some homespun food and wine pairings! We’ve taken inspiration from our latest shipment of boutique French wines to put together this guide to delicious springtime wines to suit every palate.
A spring favorite for many is asparagus, but finding the perfect wine to pair with this tricky vegetable can be a challenge. According to the experts what gives asparagus its very distinctive taste is asparagusic acid. The problem with this particular type of acid is that it can make wines taste metallic and unpleasant.
If you love asparagus AND wine, don’t fret! There are plenty of wines that pair beautifully with this classic spring staple. In France’s Alsace region locals eagerly anticipate the arrival of the first asparagus of the season. The area even hosts an Asparagus Festival in Hoerdt where the delicious vegetable is washed down with plenty of local wine!
As with many French regions, the local Alsatian cuisine and wines have developed alongside each other down the centuries with chefs tweaking their recipes and winemakers adapting their wines to complement each other. That’s why Alsatian white wines pair so well with asparagus, just like our Cuvee Engelgarden Gewurztraminer which is made from an aromatic local grape and offers plenty of mouthwatering freshness and hints of ginger and tropical fruits.
Other great matches for asparagus include Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé white wines from France’s Loire Valley. Interestingly, these two appellations sit on opposite sides of the Loire river which gives them a fairly similar flavor profile. Both are made from that classic springtime grape – Sauvignon Blanc – which pairs brilliantly with spring greens and other seasonal veg thanks to the distinctive grassy and minerally hints on the nose.
Other fantastic spring wines made from Sauvignon Blanc include white wines from the Bordeaux region, an area of France that is often more associated with red wines. Our Château de Portets Graves is a stunning blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle which pairs great with leafy salads, spring greens, and creamy chicken and pork dishes.
Another great spring wine choice is a light and fruity red to reflect the changing seasons, warmer weather and the proliferation of fantastic fresh produce. A great choice is a red Burgundy which must by law be made from the Pinot Noir grape. Although these days it has a reputation for being one of France’s finest wine regions, Burgundy reds come in a range of styles and price with something to suit every budget.
We highly recommend this Côte Chalonnaise Burgundy which is produced by winemaker Annie Derain in tiny quantities each year. Her tiny winery owns just 1.5 hectares of vines in the charming villages of Givry and Mercurey with many of the vines over 50 years old. In total Annie makes just 5000 bottles of this wine each year which are extremely popular with the locals and rarely seen outside of France.
If you’re up for trying something a bit different, why not try a bottle of Beaujolais which can even be served slightly chilled on a warm spring day. The wine is made from the local Gamay grape which thrives in the moderate climate of this central-eastern French region which sits just to the south of Burgundy. Thanks to the light-hearted, fruity character of the grapes, these are very easy-drinking wines with plenty of freshness and bright red cherry and plum flavors. Great food pairings for these wines include charcuterie, chicken, and tuna, making it a fantastic picnic wine for lazy lunches in the great outdoors.
Spring can also be a great time to enjoy a full-bodied French red paired with richer seasonal produce like game and lamb. Why not spend a little time learning a few new recipes to pair with your favorite reds? Who knows – they might even become family classics for years to come!
Pouring red wine into glasses in the vineyard at sunset
For rich and hearty reds like this Denis Lurton Margaux from Bordeaux, try pairing with red meat dishes like beef short ribs marinated in red wine and served up with plenty of healthy spring veg. Denis Lurton comes from a true Bordeaux winemaking dynasty; today there are three generations and at least 15 Lurtons working some 30 vineyards all over the world!
When it was time for Denis’ father, Lucien Lurton, to retire in 1992, he decided to divide his ten estates between his ten children. Knowing that he’d have to tread carefully to avoid igniting sibling rivalries, he asked each to write down their top three choices and used this to guide his decisions. Denis was appointed to head up Château Desmirail in Bordeaux and left his career as a lawyer to throw himself into the world of wine.
Before entering the Lurton family’s portfolio in 1980 when the estate was purchased by Denis’ father, Château Desmirail’s previous owners had included famous composer Félix Mendelssohn’s nephew, a glove maker from northern France and the owners of the legendary Château Palmer. Since taking the reins of Château Desmirail, Denis has overseen substantial improvements in the quality of the estate’s wines while staying true to its long winemaking heritage. Luckily for our SomMailier wine club members, though, they still remain little known and underappreciated compared to their more famous Margaux siblings.
Another great option for lovers of big reds is a bottle or two from France’s Rhone Valley. These wines are typically made from Grenache and Syrah as well as smaller quantities of Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault which thrive in the warm and dry Mediterranean climate in southern France. Here the hot summers help to create powerful red wines with opulent dark fruit flavors and hints of leather, dried herbs and spicy notes from the oak ageing.
Our top pick is the Michelas St Jemms Crozes Hermitage from Domaine Michelas St Jemms, an independent family-run winery which was founded by Robert and Yvette Michelas in 1961. In 1988 their four children, Sylvie, Florence, Corinne, and Sebastien, took over the reins and the estate currently has 120 acres of prime vineyards in the Rhone Valley.
The family produces wine in four different local appellations or sub-regions, including Crozes-Hermitage where this wine is made. Here the soils are a mixture of clay, lime and granite along with the rounded pebbles which are a classic feature of the Rhone Valley.
Some of the vineyards are located on steep slopes which ensure maximum exposure to the sun so the grapes ripen perfectly. The gradient also makes these plots very difficult to access, meaning they must be hand-harvested and ploughed by horse.
The family also follows strict environmentally-friendly practices in the winery and in the vineyard. They hold HVE or “high environmental value” certification which is awarded by the French government for wineries who meet the exacting criteria. Crozes-Hermitage is blessed with a warm and dry climate which favors the Syrah variety. The Michelas family’s delicious expression is bursting with blackcurrant, dried herbs, and leather notes, and is ideal to drink now alongside hearty red meat dishes.
Has this whetted your appetite to learn more about French wine? We’re here to help! Why not check out our French wine club. Every three months we send direct to your door three or six bottles of boutique French wines which have been carefully selected by our family and wine experts in France along with detailed information about each wine and food pairing ideas to help you really discover French wine. And as if that wasn’t enough, we also have a wine club gift option for that special wine lover in your life!