Mention spring to any wine lover, and thoughts often turn to light whites to enjoy with the season’s cuisine. These wines foot the bill, with relatively low alcohol content, light body, and just enough bubbles to sharpen the palate. All taste best within a year or two of their vintage, while the flavors are still vibrant and fresh. So grab a bottle, and toast to longer days and warmer weather!
Muscadet hails from France’s Loire Valley, and is made with the Melon de Bourgogne grape. With minerals, tart apple and lemon on the palate, it is no wonder the locals think it’s a perfect match for oysters. Sur lie on the label means the wine has been aged “on the lees”—the dead yeast cells left over after fermentation. This adds complexity and faint bubbles (known in French as perlant.) Try Muscadet with mussels steamed in white wine and garlic, or with grilled scallops.
Portuguese for “green wine,” Vinho Verde comes in white, red and rosé styles. The whites have green apple flavors, light body and a slight prickle. A wonderful, lower-alcohol alternative to whites likes Pinot Grigio, Vinho Verde is a perfect companion to pasta primavera or asparagus frittata. Many bottles cost around $7, making it a perfect house white wine for the warmer months.
Not to be confused with the fully sparkling Asti Spumante, which also comes from Italy’s Piedmont region, Moscato d’Asti is lower in alcohol and frizzante (about half the carbonation of a full sparkler.) The Muscat grapes make it highly aromatic, and a terrific patio sipper. Serve Moscato d’Asti with a fruit and cheese tray, or pack a bottle along with some ham and Brie sandwiches for a springtime picnic.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine writer and educator in the Metro DC area. Her last piece for Wine Enthusiast was “Destination: Woodinville.” She can be reached through her Web site, which is www.trywine.net.