BY CARLOS CARDENAS
Working as a wine professional, I’ve been asked many interesting questions, but by far the most difficult is, “What is YOUR favorite wine?”
I have thought about how to answer this question, and even today, I don’t think I have an answer.
The difficulty, in part, comes from the fact that there are so many wine options. A mentality that I adopted a few years back is to break the question down into seasonal categories.
A bold and full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley might not be as easy to take down on a sunlit patio on an afternoon in March. That type of wine is perfect for the winter months.
Luckily, there are several options to choose from when deciding what you should drink in the spring.
Some of my favorite wines to drink in the warmer months all have very bright, youthful flavors. You’re looking for refreshment, so your wine should be crisp, have some aroma of flowers and probably should be a wine that tastes better with a slight chill.
Naturally, we look to white wines for these kinds of flavors, but some reds hit those notes as well.
I encourage you to look for a really special white wine from northern Portugal. Vinho Verde has been produced for many years there and is meant to be drunk young. It is a light, crisp white wine that can have a slight effervescence to it. Remember this key phrase: “If it grows together, it goes together.” Vinho Verde is a perfect seafood pairing, but given its easy drinking and generally mild nature, it can also be a foolproof match for something as simple as chips and salsa.
Another wine that’s great for this season is Rosé, which is a lot more common than Vinho Verde or a French Muscadet, and this is for good reason. You can find it in a sweet or dry format. Typically, Rosé from the south of France, specifically from the region of Provence (where a large amount of Rosé is produced on a regular basis), will be on the drier side.
The wine maker will leave the skins of the grape in the fermentation tank for a shorter period of time giving the Rosé its pink color. If the skins were left for longer, the wine would be darker.
Enjoy any kind of Rosé on a warm day. Keep it chilled and pair it with some fresh oysters or another light appetizer.
Staying in France, I’d like for you to indulge me in the guiltiest of pleasures. For me, that means Burgundy, and more specifically, white Burgundy.
Burgundy, a region in east-central France, produces jaw-dropping wine and typically is known for either pinot noir or chardonnay. If you’re drinking white Burgundy, you are probably drinking some of the best chardonnay in the world.
Very different from California, the French do not age their chardonnay in the same kind of oak barrels, which doesn’t impart very creamy or buttery flavors in the wine. Instead, the flavors are more bright and bouncy: crisp green apple, fleshy yellow pear, starfruit, possibly even subtle notes of hazelnut or vanilla on the back end. Full disclosure, Burgundian wines can be expensive, especially if they were produced in the Côte de Beaune (my personal favorite region for white wine). However, you can still find a bottle of Chablis for under $20 that will hit all those same great notes.
Drink these wines with a slight chill, and unless you’re sharing the bottle with someone else who appreciates good wine, you should hoard your good Burgundy. Burgundy is a special-occasion wine, and good Burgundy should hurt a little bit when you open the bottle.
Finally, a red. You’ll notice a pattern, because we’re staying in France. One of the best kept secrets in the wine community is Beaujolais, pronounced bow-je-lay. This is some of the best-quality-for-the-price wine I’ve ever tasted.
Beaujolais is mainly produced of a grape varietal called Gamay. It is packed with youthful fruit flavors like raspberry, tart cherry and slightly under ripe strawberry. These wines are typically high in acid but low in alcohol, so it makes for the perfect day-drinking bottle. I wouldn’t pay more than $25 for a bottle of good Beaujolais and is a near perfect pairing for grilled chicken or fish, but honestly, sometimes a very simple board with meats and cheeses is all you need to help this bottle reach its peak. Drink these young, chilled and only with people you love.
Spring is about enjoying the new; it’s about a reawakening. I encourage you to try some wines you’ve never tasted. Try any of the ones we’ve discussed here, or as always, don’t be intimidated to ask a server at a restaurant or a sales person at a store. They will generally have more information to help you make the right selection.
Carlos Cardenas is a Rio Grande Valley native and a Level 1 Sommelier.