Spring is here. Whether you’re someone who loves to have people over for dinner parties and cookouts or are someone who loves to go to the dinner parties and cookouts, this article is for you.
We all work really hard and sometimes after work or on a lazy weekend we don’t want to go to the damn wine shop and grab a bottle for that soiree. So why not have a case of wine in your abode at all times so you can just grab and go when the mood strikes? And wouldn’t it be nice if all the wines you have on hand were perfect for spring?
The following is my guide to building the perfect spring-themed case of wine that you’ll be able to amass in any wine shop across the USA. Price ranges depend on where you live, but, no matter what, this case won’t break the bank and I guarantee it will impress your friends or that friend of a friend.
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As you drink through this case, just replenish one or two bottles at a time to ease up on the ol’ wallet. And as you get to know these wines, you can start to explore new wines based on the characteristics of the bottles you are looking to replace — just find a good wine shop and tell them what you’ve been enjoying.
So let’s make a case for spring! A case of wine has twelve bottles in it, and there are several combinations with which you can work, but I find that 2 sparklers, 2 rosés, 4 whites and 4 reds will get you started. From there you can customize how you see fit.
Your Two Sparklers
There is no need to go big (unless you want to) and grab proper Champers. That stuff is pricey! I love me some Champagne but the more you spend on a bottle the more you’re likely to save that bottle for a special occasion. So let’s stock the case up with two very affordable and delicious bubbs.
Great sparkling wine is made all over the world, including right in our backyard. The Gruet Family out of New Mexico make stunning, crispy clean bubblies from the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Their blanc de noirs is great for spring with prices starting at $10. This is a fantastic welcoming sparkler or a perfect pairing with a bucket of fried chicken.
For your second bottle, you just gotta get into Cava. These wines are made from three native grapes in northeastern Spain with names like Xerello, Peralleda and Macabeu (and sometimes a skosh of Chardonnay…ahem). Funky names. Bracing wine. Cava is made in the same way as Champagne and is way lower in price. They often have nice tight bubbles and notes of citrus and tropical fruits with a slight waft of musk. This bottle is just for sipping or great with many of the mouthwatering dishes you come up with based on the season’s long list of produce. Freixenet is the most popular and can be found everywhere for $10 or under. If you can find Juve Y Camps, $10-15, you will get a little more depth and structure. But really any Cava will do.
Rosé All Day
Having rosé on hand is a must for this time of year. Whether it is salmon in color or a slight shade of fire engine red, they are all refreshing. One of the things I love to do is pick up one bottle of old world rosé and a second bottle of new world rosé to enjoy in the same sitting. This allows you to really get a sense of how different they can be.
For old world go for a classic Provence rosé from France. They are EVERYWHERE! Bright pink and beautiful, these wines range from $10 all the way up into the $50 range. Stick with the lower price point to start. Many rosés from Provence in this price range are made by cooperatives, which is just a venture shared by a group of winemakers to cut down on the costs they pass on to you. Provence rosé is often a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvedre (and sometimes a little aromatic grape called Tibouren), and it has a clean, crisp acidity with notes of peach and sometimes a hint of savory herbs. This is a quaffing wine if there ever was one but also perfect with spring salads.
South African Rosé
Flying over to the new world I would highly suggest a South African rosé. Wine from this country is becoming more and more prominent on the American market and the prices are easy to digest. Starting at around $8 a bottle and topping at around $15 all bets are off when it comes to blending. For a native rosé, go for one made from the “indigenous” Pinotage grape, a grape engineered by humans by crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsault. If you can find it, try the Kanokop Kadette Pinotage rosé at about $11 a bottle. It’s a nice contrast to the Provence variety and is a fuller bodied rosé that is great with heavier spring fare like grilled meats.
You can also get a bit experimental with crazy rosés blended with other grapes they grow there, like the Robertson Winery Natural Sweet rosé, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Colombard and Chenin Blanc (those last two are white grapes). Ruby red and slightly sweet, this a great wine for what the South Africans call a braai and what we call a BBQ.
White Wine In Spring. No Brainer.
Chardonnay is one of the best food wines out there. It has just the right amount of depth to hold up to proteins like heavier fish dishes and skirt steak or steak tartare, with enough acidity to cleanse the palate while not weighing down greener dishes like a niçoise salad. Some of the best Chardonnay on the planet comes from its birthplace in Burgundy, France but man can the price hike up. But there’s a trick. In the southern stretches of the region is a place called the Mâconnais where they make Chardonnay wines called Mâcon. These wines are the most affordable Burgundian whites and the easiest to find. You still get that clean, round texture with hints of citrus, a kiss of banana and flowers but pay a third of the price. Louis Jadot is the most popular around with a nice $10 price tag and will do just fine. But if you can find the Juvenille Mâcon at the same price you will get a bit more complexity.
Keeping in the theme of food whites let’s go to Greece. The Assyrtiko grape makes some of the most bone dry, mineral driven wines around and they just scream seafood. Coming mostly from the island of Santorini, drinking this wine with some grilled scallops or any dish with a crustacean in it will make you feel you are on an island in the Aegean Sea, soaking up sun and gazing at white sandy beaches. Any Assyrtiko will do and they are well priced at around $11.
Now it’s time to drink for the drink of it. One of the most inexpensive white wines on the shelves that have a consistent zingy awesomeness are the Vinho Verde wines of northern Portugal. And when I say inexpensive I am talking bottles that start at $5. YES! The wonder of Vinho Verde wines is the naturally high acidity that gives them a fizzy quality. They aren’t sparkling wines, just zippy and lemony quaffers with little bubbles on the tongue. Vinho Verde definitely works with some foods but is best on its own, to be slurped down while thinking about the next bottle.
Speaking of awesome affordable whites, we have to talk about Muscadet, named for its tendency to be a bit musky. Made from the Melon De Bourgogne grape grown in the Pays Nantais in the western Loire Valley close to the Atlantic, this wine is one of the highest outputs in France. They are always affordable, starting at about $8 a bottle, and can be found almost anywhere. There are so many out there that I don’t have a particular name to recommend. Just grab a bottle and enjoy the citrus aromas with slight hints of pepper and minerality with an underlying creaminess. These wines are great with seafood, as the grapes are grown near the ocean but can also pair well with sunsets and good friends.
Four Reds For The Head
When I think red wine for warm weather the first thing that comes to mind is acidity – that awesome element in wine that brightens up the party. I’m looking for wines that won’t weigh me down but rather float to my head with bright berry fruit. These are also great wines to put a slight chill on and enjoy as they come to regular temperature, only to be topped off with more of the chill.
For me, wines made from the Gamay grape are essential for this time of year. The grape is native to an area just south of Burgundy in France called Beaujolais. There are other wines made from Gamay around the world but I would start with its homeland. Beaujolais has nine crus, specific areas that give the best fruit, and can range from $15 to $50 with each cru resulting in a slightly different flavor profile.
But for our purposes we are going to skip the crus and focus on what is called Beaujolais-Villages (Vee-lage). These are wines made from multiple holdings all over the region that really give you a sense of what this grape has to offer. They are also nicely priced between $8 and $15 a bottle.
Here in Beaujolais this early ripening grape is packed with acidity. The wines are alive with strawberry and raspberry fruit that includes touches of violets and herbs. During this time of year, I actually like to treat Beaujolais like a white wine and keep it chilled. It is a staple in Parisian bistros and is served as such. It’s the perfect spring red wine to pair with food. It goes with just about anything you can throw at it, from a cheese and meat plate, to lean grilled steaks and seafood as well as any salad you can come up with. This is the wine in your case that you may be going back to more often than you think – just try to stay away from Beaujolais Nouveau.
Pinot Noir from Oregon is, in my humble opinion, the best and most elegant style we have in all of the fifty states. Nothing will ever be as elegant as Burgundian Pinot Noir, but in the northwest it gets damn close. Bright, medium-bodied red wines with lively notes of cherry and earth, these wines are food friendly all day long. The vines grow in harsh soils and cool to moderate climates which helps retain the bracing acidity to keep the wine fruit forward. But because Oregon is slightly warmer than the grape’s ancestral home of Burgundy the depth of these wines are legit. These wines are a bit on the pricier side, starting at $20, but since you’ve saved so much coin so far why not splurge a little? There a lot of Oregon Pinots out there on the market today, even below the $20 mark, but some of my personal faves are the O.P.P from Mouton Noir which offers a Pinot Noir with a little bit of depth and the Siduri Willamette Valley for a bit of elegance.
Old Vine Garnacha
Wines made from old vines tend to have more concentration of flavor. The older a vine gets (over forty) the more sunlight it sees due to less leaf production and less bunches of fruit competing for nutrients. But because of the low yield, true old vine wine can be expensive. BUT, there are two magical places in Northeastern Spain – Calatayud and Cariñena – that grow insanely affordable old vine Garnacha, with the vines often getting up into their eighties.
A good Garnacha will have the strawberries and raspberries similar to Beaujolais but step up the complexity with notes of cherries, black olives and a kiss of honey. The high acidity of the old vine will keep the wine bright and refreshing while still giving a nice depth. This wine is also great with a slight chill. This is the heaviest wine in the case and will go with heavier spring dishes, like BBQ and other grilled meats, but also burgers and pizza. The number one old vine Garnacha on the market for me is Tres Ojos. It is $8 or $9 a bottle and has all of the awesome characteristics I just explained.
Life, I mean, your case, would not be complete without a Lambrusco. I put this in the red section even though the wine is a bubbly, as it’s a red bubbly! The Lambrusco grape is grown primarily in the northern region of Emilia Romagna in Italy. It is made into a sparkling wine meant to cut through the fat of the region’s mostly fatty foods. If you were to have a red wine with fried chicken or hell, anything fried, this is your go to bottle. Fatty cold cuts, cheeses, burgers, pizza, fries, calamari, any of these foods washed down with a sweet and slightly bitter Lambrusco is heavenly. There are a lot of them out there and, based on where you are, just grab one and go. If you have a great wine shop, they’ll have a few of them and let you know how they weigh in on the sweetness scale. If you can, try to find the driest one available. They will always be a little sweet but that doesn’t have to be the primary characteristic.
So run, don’t walk, to your nearest wine shop and make a case for spring!
Pro tip: Wine shops will often give you a discount if you get a full case so that’s a win-win right there. And as always, if you have any further questions about these wines, hit me up in the comment section and we can talk it out. Cheers!