As we emerge from the cocoon of winter, we start thinking about going outdoors, moving more outside, and even inviting guests for lunch or apéritif. Easter always feels like a moment to celebrate new and healthy habits. At the same time, indulgence beckons with chocolate egg hunts in the garden and why not a chocolate cake instead of the traditional simnel cake? Get-togethers with friends and family beckon over those long weekends with bank holidays.
What is going on in the vineyard in Spring?
Pruning has finished after the winter rest, the buds are just poking through, we are mulching the vine clippings feeding them back into the soil. In the winery, we are bottling the recent white wine vintage – the 2023 vintage wines that are meant to be fresh, fruity and drunk this Summer. Meanwhile, the oaked 2022 and 2023 red wine vintages are still maturing happily in barrel.
What are we seeing in abundance in the markets? It depends where you live but here in France, the winter veg (butternut squash, pumpkins, chicory, etc) are starting to fade out while spring baby carrots, beans and asparagus are on their way in. Radishes are in abundance too with other salad veg, spring onions, new potatoes, baby leeks. We have Spring wine and plant-based pairings suggestions for you - both recipe ideas and detailed recipes.
Veg in the spotlight: Asparagus
Visit Bordeaux in late Spring and every restaurant will be serving asparagus. Blaye, a medieval citadel (fortified town) on the banks of the Gironde Estuary is famous for its Bordeaux Côtes de Blaye red wines and some whites. It’s also famous for its asparagus. Each April, Blaye holds a spring festival, with lots of wines and lots of asparagus to taste.
Thirty asparagus producers have obtained a IGP (Indication géographique protégée) for their product – similar to an AOP for wine. The Blaye asparagus are white rather than green.
They tend to be fat and juicy and are white because they are grown covered in soil – as soon as they are uncovered they become darker green in colour.
Is it good for you?
Asparagus is the perfect Spring food, fibrous (great for our gut bacteria) and slightly bitter and so perfect for stimulating the appetite. It also contains vitamins and glutathione – a great detoxer and they are diuretic, so just the ticket for a spring detox.
What to drink with asparagus?
It pairs brilliantly with a fresh, dry white or sometimes a barrel-aged white or lighter red, but of course it depends on what you serve it with.
Naughty but nice!
Easter means chocolate which often takes us into sugar overload, but some chocolate is good for you. If you keep a high cocoa content, a minimum 70%, the benefits of the polyphenols in chocolate outweigh some of the harmful effects of sugar – in moderation of course, just like fine wine.
Both chocolate and red wine contain tannins, pairing a really dark chocolate with a really tannic wine can reinforce the drying effect of tannins and neither taste great. As a rule, the darker the chocolate the fruitier the wine. Milk chocolate goes better with very tannic wines. However, it all changes when you cook with chocolate. Adding cream, butter or nuts softens the tannic feel of the chocolate and makes it easier to pair with a tannic wine. Too much sugar doesn’t work, as it can make wine tannins feel tough. Try adding raspberries or dipping red fruits in melted dark chocolate. Messy but delicious.
If you want to have some fun, take a selection of chocolate from milk through 70%, 80% or 90% cocoa and a lighter wine such as a young Pinot, or a Beaujolais and a barrel-aged Merlot or Cabernet and taste one after the other to find your sweet spot. Mine is 70% cocoa with a glass of Merlot. At Sally’s wine bar she serves locally made chocolates filled with a Fronsac wine infused ganache. The best of both worlds.
What wine goes with chocolate?
For more insight:
Sally’s blog on wine and chocolate pairing – tips & suggestions
Wendy’s blog about the Bordeaux chocolate maker Hasnaa