Spring is probably my favourite season, not only for its longer days and warmer weather but also for the fresh foods and new wine pairings. One of the best is whitebait and chardonnay – some say a better match is sparkling, but I believe you can’t beat chardonnay to wash down a freshly made whitebait fritter. Chardonnay also accompanies warm, buttered new-season Jersey Benne spuds beautifully, and spring lamb is always better with a flavoursome pinot noir. Last but not least, add well chilled sauvignon blanc to that other spring treat, asparagus.
If you have a sweet tooth, dessert wines are just the ticket. Styles vary according to production: wines made from grapes harvested late in the vintage are very pure, while others feature grapes dried to concentrate the natural sugars, which gives a raisiny richness. Those with the greatest depth of flavour and complexity tend to come from grapes infected by botrytis, a ‘noble’ rot infection that shrivels grapes, concentrating flavours while adding a unique character of honey, caramel and marzipan. Dessert wines are laborious to produce, as grapes are carefully hand-picked to ensure only the perfect berries and bunches are used – meaning yield is low. Their fermentation can also be tricky, as the yeasts pretty much drown in all that sugar! All this contributes to their sometimes very high cost. The end result, however, is like nothing else – intense, unctuous and altogether rather decadent.
You may have noticed the ever-increasing range of organic products in your supermarket, and certainly Kiwi wines are making great strides in this arena. Organic Winegrowers New Zealand are well on their way to achieving their goal of 20 per cent of the country’s production being organic by 2020, with around 16 per cent of producers already growing grapes and making wine organically or biodynamically. A great asset for our ‘clean and green’ environment, look for the BioGro or Demeter certification on labels, or go online to find details of organic wine producers.
Did you know?
It’ll come as no surprise to anyone who has ever tried to clean up a spilled glass, but red wine can actually be used as a fabric dye. Depending on the fabric and wine choice, just a few minutes of stirring the cloth in simmering wine will yield shades of pale pink through to deep burgundy or even dusky grey.
Emma's springtime selection...
Smooth and ripe
Ballasalla Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013, $30.
From the super-smart Folding Hill stable, this has an opulent spicy nose and a smooth, juicy palate, with a sweet-fruited core of ripe cherry, raspberry and red plums, plus a dash of florals and earth. Try with a warm lamb salad.
Cambridge Road Martinborough ‘Dovetail’ 2010, $65.
An intriguing blend of pinot noir and syrah from a biodynamic Martinborough producer, this is perfumed, complex and richly warm in dark plums, brambly berryfruit, spice and mineral notes.
Seresin ‘Momo’ Sauvignon Blanc 2014, $20.
Zesty, fresh and bright with plenty of tropical fruit, red capsicum and fresh mown grass, the fine thread of bright acidity adds a mouthwateringly moreish element. Spring in a glass.
Summerhouse Marlborough Pinot Gris 2014, $16.
From a reliably great-value range of wines, this is richly fruited with baked apple, ripe pear and warm gingerbread, off-dry and very appealing with good depth and a clean, fresh finish.
Brancott Estate ‘B’ Marlborough Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2014, $20.
This dessert wine has luscious tropical fruit and honey flavours and a clean, faintly herbal finish. Try at the start of a meal with chicken liver pâté or at the end with blue cheese and ripe figs – or even better, both!
Bright and fruity
Mahi ‘Twin Valleys’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2014, $28.
An elegant, fruit-focused chardonnay with a bright citrus lift to the nose, creamy stonefruit palate with a touch of toasted nuts and a balanced, lengthy finish. Match with seasonal whitebait.
All prices are approximate.
Photos: Getty Images.