In warmer parts of the world, April is a month of culinary splendor. For those of us still under a frost advisory, (if to the locavores’ chagrin) the influences still manage to infiltrate our culinary consciousness with asparagus and green beans, lamb and rabbit, and eggs…in all their sweet and savory manifestations.
Over in Italy, Romans are shelling fava beans and popping them with crumbled Pecorino cheese, and much of the country is indulging in pizza salata (a cheesy, crumbly cake) and Colomba (a fluffy brioche in the shape of a dove and coated in almonds). The British are downing hot cross buns like they’re going out of style (as if they ever will). The French are stewing lamb and spring vegetables. Here in New York and all across the world, we’ve just wrapped up our Seders. Who knew you could get full on gefilte fish? And we’ve all got chocolate-tipped fingers and a sugar coma. Macaroons, anyone?
Take your cues from the April bounty. Options are plentiful and there’s no better time to date than the spring, when everything is hopeful and growing. Put on something pretty and pastel and get out there. If not out to dinner, at least out for drinks. Here are some great wine-pairing suggestions to match your meal and get you talking.
For the red drinkers: on a still-cool evening, head for the Syrah (or Shiraz as you might know it). Generally darkly fruity with distinctive black pepper notes, Syrah sidles up against gamier meats like lamb or rabbit with the perfect balance of backbone and blackberry. It’s a companion that exalts the earthy qualities of strong-flavored meats while also tempering them with fruit and floral notes. My favorites come from the southern France region of Rhône and are often blended with local varieties Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier. They tend to be pretty swarthy, but smooth at the same time, and who doesn’t love that! Nearby Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées also produce some great red blends. Corbières, in the same region, produced bold peppery blends based on the Carignan grape, and goes down with a peppery rush and a lot of heat.
For the white drinkers: for your spring vegetables, egg dishes, and yes – even gefilte fish – go for something subtle, smooth and white. Viognier, Chenin Blanc, or a non-abrasive Sauvignon Blanc also does the trick. Too much green on the nose (lime and lemongrass) can actually overkill the delicate flavors of spring vegetables. Gefilte fish, with its slightly bitter aftertaste, requires something with traces of residual sugar for balance, so a sunny Chenin Blanc from Long Island or even a Prosecco or Cava would do. I find that a bit of bubbly splices into the unctuous exterior of crispy frittata or matzo brei and really underlines the rich creaminess off the eggs.
When it comes to all things sweet and sinful, your first instinct might be to go for something dry (think Chamapagne and wedding cake). But you’d be surprised to find that the right dessert wine (with sharp acidity and a little tannin) will actually clear your palate after every bite, eliminating the cloying quality of too much candy and making it that much easier to eat even more! For those who aren’t ready for the more treacle-y passito or late harvest styles, try a Marsala or Port. Oxidized, caramelized and complex, there’s something for everyone. It’s good to have choices.
Otherwise try a Passito di Pantelleria, a Sicilian dessert wine drenched in dried apricot aromas and candied flower petals.