With spring officially sprung, it's time to switch up your clothing, eat bushels of asparagus, and yes, drink wines that conjure up images of everything we love about spring. Look at the next three months as the perfect season for drinking wines that are as cozy as they are refreshing, as layered as they are uncomplicated. Or you could just consider this time period as a little pre-rosé-season training period of sorts.
Spring wines call to mind a sense of lightness not found in the rich, full-bodied reds you've no doubt been loving all winter. Much like the way your body is craving its first taste of spring vegetables, your wine-drinking palate is ready for an antidote to the higher tannins and alcohol content typically found in big red wines. Wines that just seem to sing "springtime" are medium- to full-bodied whites; they offer everything from tangy citrus to fleshy peach and floral notes. Not too dry, they're the ideal transition to help you move from your favorite winter comfort wines into the crisp, bracing wines you'll be ready to guzzle come summer.
A soft and subtle wine, pinot blanc is a genetic mutation or clone of pinot gris (which is actually a clone of pinot noir). This grape is grown predominately in the Alsace region of France, but can also be found in northeastern Italy as well as in California. Pinot blancs range in style from lighter to fuller-bodied, but what makes them perfect for spring is how refreshing and easy-to-drink they are. The Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2008 ($15) is a delight with its crisp apple and honeysuckle flavors. Make yourself a cheese plate with Grana Padano and asiago -- both from the same Alto Adige region as the wine -- and feel yourself transported to a springy meadow somewhere in the Italian Alps.
Say this next one with me now...Soave (swaaah-vay). Doesn't just the name of this fantastic wine get you fired up for spring? Soave wines are produced in the Veneto region of Italy, and those Venetians know a thing or two about conjuring up sexy images. Their wines are no exception: Excellent Soaves (the primary grape varietal is a decidedly less-sexy sounding garganega) are a push-pull of tanginess and creaminess, citrus and roasted almonds. Imagine yourself enjoying a bowl of linguine, tossed with lobster, scallops, and shrimp in a nutty brown-butter sauce. This wine is the liquid equivalent of that dish. An excellent Soave primer: the Inama Vin Soave Classico 2007 ($16).
If Soave wines are the sexy vixens of springtime wines, then viognier is the more delicate, romantic wine of the season. Viognier hails from France's Rhône region and has historically been used to blend with other white and red wines. Thankfully, winemakers from France, California, Oregon and Australia unearthed viognier's potential to stand on its own as a varietal and allowed us to fall in love with this whimsical wine. Have you ever seen someone swirl and sniff a golden-hued white wine, and then pronounce it "floral?" They just might have been drinking a viognier, whose bouquet is precisely that: full of fragrant orange blossoms, roses, and hints of perfume. Follow those aromas with flavors of honeyed apricot, nectarine, and even exotic tropical fruits and you'll soon understand why so many chardonnay drinkers have upgraded to this luxuriant white. Try the Jacques & Francois Lurton Les Salices Viognier 2008 ($12) or splurge on a truly magnificent bottle of Penner-Ash Wilamette Valley Viognier 2008 ($28) to find out what spring in a bottle really tastes like. You'll adore sipping these wines all by themselves, but open up a bottle with your next order of pad Thai and you might like them even better.
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