Warm Weather Wines

“Clean and green” is the way to go with wines and the cuisine of late spring. The produce at our farmers’ markets this time of year possess an ethereal green freshness that will soon give way to the deeper, sun-soaked and soil-rich flavors of high summer. As such, crisp, light wines with clean, herbal nuances work nicely with the sweet, chlorophyll tastes of asparagus, peas and salad greens. Herbaceous flavors are also in abundance in spring lamb and chevre. The following suggestions pair market produce with a recommended grape varietal and a specific wine. Less is more in spring: these foods taste best in uncomplicated preparations enjoyed outside with family and friends.

Schloss Gobelsburg “Gobelsburger” Austria 2006 $17

Asparagus can be a wine-killer, but the sweet-salad green accents in the Grüner Veltliner grape tend to bring out the sweetness in the vegetable. The Gobelsburg is dry with a toasty complexity that works particularly well with grilled asparagus.

Seifried Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 2007 $15

The grassiness and high acidity of spring chevre always shows well with an unoaked, grassy Sauvignon. The Seifried shows the briny side of this varietal as well as a hint of grapefruit that New Zealand Sauvignons are known for. Add a touch of clover honey to the cheese and see the wine transformed.

Champalou Vouvray, France 2006 $17

For some mysterious reason the pear and beeswax quality of Chenin Blanc enhances the inimitable flavor of peas. Champalou’s “basic” bottling of Vouvray is on the drier side and has a cool green character that focuses the freshness of June peas. Prepare peas al dente with cultured butter and a touch of tarragon.

Langlois Chateau “Les Montifault,” Chinon, France 2004 $16

Cabernets—whether Sauvignon or Franc—from cool climates often show an herbaciousness that brings out the grassiness in pasture-fed lamb. This Cabernet Franc from the Chinon region of France’s Loire Valley is lean but powerful with an unusual but delicious combination of olive and strawberry notes. Serve it slightly chilled; the lamb rare, with olive oil and rosemary.

Ca’ del Baio Moscato di Asti, Italy 2007 $17

The intense summer sweetness that draws us to strawberries should be matched with a sparkler with the same taste. The peachy, flowery sweetness of this Moscato adds another dimension of fruit to the strawberries. Instead of chocolate, try with crème fraiche or sour cream and taste how it brings out a hint of mint in the wine.

The featured vintages are available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested.

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.