The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer – spring is in the air…and Shavuot is almost here! The warm weather and dairy Shavuot meals provide the perfect excuse to pop the corks on the newest vintages of white and rosé wines.
Aside from some oak-aged white wines, most white and rosé wines should be consumed young, while they are fresh and crisp. Which means that when selecting a white or rosé this Shavuot, try to buy wine from recent vintages such as 2007 or younger. Also remember to serve these wines chilled, but not too cold – that can mask some of their aromas. Try removing them from the fridge about 10 minutes prior to drinking.
With its refreshing citrus flavors and lip smacking acidity, Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect pairing for a festive, milchig (dairy) meal. And some of the best examples of Sauvignon Blanc are coming out of New Zealand, where the Goose Bay winery is producing terrific wines. The 2009 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc has a bright acidity that is sure to make your mouth water. Tart citrus and fresh cut grass aromas, together with the aforementioned acidity, make this versatile food wine an ideal pairing for a salad, sushi or spicy Asian cuisine.
Chardonnay has for years been the go-to white wine for many people. The ultimate Chardonnays are those made in the Burgundian style; aged in new oak barrels and allowed to undergo a secondary fermentation process (known as malolactic fermentation) that leads to a wine with aromas of toast (from the barrels) and butter (from the secondary fermentation). These robust whites are great in the winter time, but can seem a little heavy as the weather warms and the foods we eat are lighter. Recognizing the need for lighter Chardonnay, we are seeing wineries producing Chardonnay that is made without the barrel aging and secondary fermentation, resulting in wine that is lighter and allows the grape’s fruity characteristics to shine through.
The 2007 Baron Herzog Central Coast Chardonnay is crisp and refreshing. Aromas of tropical fruit and chamomile and flavors of apple, pineapple and pear, with a hint of toasty vanilla make this wine an excellent choice for a light lunch of lemon sole and olive cous-cous.
Bordeaux wines are red wine blends made from several grape varietals and some of the most complex wines in the world. Similarly, wineries today are also blending white grapes and the results have been some very interesting wines. Many of these white blends combine the best characteristics of the different grapes so that the whole is better that the individual parts. Thankfully, these white wine blends don’t cost as much as the top red Bordeaux blends.
Israel’s Carmel winery has a crisp and refreshing white blend, the 2009 Carmel “Ridge White”. A blend of four grapes; Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, French Colombard and Semillion, this bright, lively wine has melon, pear and lime aromas and flavors and is a perfect warm weather sipper. Serve this wine chilled with citrus salads, pasta primavera, or fresh fruit salad.
Though light, crisp and refreshing works best in warmer weather, a white wine with a little more body (think heavy cream vs. skim milk) pairs favorably with Shavuot classics such as creamy pastas, blintzes or quiche. Chenin Blanc is a white varietal whose origin is traced back to the Loire region of France. Commonly used to make sparkling or dessert wine, Chenin Blanc also makes lovely dry still-wine that often possess pretty floral and tropical aromas.
Baron Herzog uses the Chenin Blanc grape from their Clarksburg vineyard to make two excellent wines that are very reasonable priced. The 2008 Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc has a touch of sweetness and is an easy drinking wine with floral aromas and delicious apple flavors, making it a terrific pairing for sweet potato soufflé, fettuccini Alfredo or parmesan crusted flounder.
The 2008 Herzog Reserve Late Harvest Chenin Blanc is a wildly complex dessert style wine with an array of gorgeous aromas and flavors. Quince, kiwi, apricot, Boston cream pie and honey are just a few of the characteristics you may find in this wine. A perfect complement to pound cake and berries, this wine can also be served in the absence of dessert as dessert itself.
Another great (and more colorful) option for warm weather drinking is rosé. While red wines get their color from extended contact with the grape skins, rosé gets its color from minimal contact with the skins. Many rosé wines are actually made from familiar red varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and even Cabernet Sauvignon.
From Israel, the Binyamina winery makes a rosé under its Yogev label. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, this reddish-pink wine has tart berry aromas and is a nice option on a warm summer day. Though not traditional Shavuot fare, this wine makes me crave a summer BBQ and a juicy burger with all the fixings.
Another rosé, this one made in France, is the 2007 Rothschild Rosé de Clarke. This pinkish-orange tinged wine has fresh strawberry aromas and elegant mineral and fruit flavors. A pleasant and long finish makes this lovely rosé a worthy companion for those special salmon or tuna steaks.
Just as acidity wakes up the palate, so too do bubbles. Sparkling wines, such as those from Champagne, affectionately known as “bubbly”, should NOT be reserved only for special occasions. The CO2 in sparkling wines make them incredibly food friendly, capable of pairing with all kinds of foods. As an appetizer or dessert, with cold foods or hot and spicy foods, sparkling wines are every food’s best friend.
New to the market is the Herzog Selection Rose’ Brut. A lovely salmon colored wine made in France, it displays lovely tart berry characteristics. Looks for hints of strawberry, raspberry & cherry – but different from red wines, here they will be tart-like, almost as if they were under ripe. Though this wine can marry nicely with just about all foods, I would suggest pairing it with a spicy dish, or simply enjoying it outside with friends on a sunny day.
Wine complements food and completes a meal. Save the grape juice for the kids and indulge in a refreshing glass of wine this yom-tov. But remember that whether white, rosé or a robust red, the most important factor when choosing a wine is finding one that you enjoy.
To purchase these wines and many other kosher selections, go to www.onlinekosherwine.com
Gary Landsman, AKA the “Wine Tasting Guy”, makes, sells, writes about and of course tastes wine. You can read more of his writings in his blog at www.winetastingguy.com or contact him with any wine related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.