Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spring Rises to the tune of Velt-LEEN-er

Fog Rising by Emily Smith

This past week, I stepped outside before the dawn had fully sprung. A blanket of misty fog clung to the frosted ground; but, slowly the shroud of damp dew began rising, as if lifting her skirts to reveal the tender young grass springing, the yellow daffodil petals yawning, and the purple crocus peeking open for its first glimpse of fluxing seasons. I thought for a moment how everything springs forward, ascending upwards toward a new morning light. I inhaled deeply the scents of fresh morn, waiting to exhale my hopeful pondering: spring has sprung!

The dormant land awakens to new life; and with it a farmer’s bounty and a wine lover’s new adventure into a world painted verdant green. Spring green demands a color descriptor all of its own, somewhere on the verge of light green splashed with yellow highlights, conjuring nascent freshness. In the wine world, this verdant green translates into wines such as Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, and possibly even Pinot Gris or Torrentes. In the food world, ramps, artichockes, fava beans, and asparagus take their place once again on the spring menu.
So if we marry the wine and food world, a story unfolds of delicious pairings waiting to molt the winter senses. The trick is not slipping into wines that are too green just yet. Now is not the time for spritzy Vinho Verdes stacked high at Whole Foods in the zenith of summer, or Pinot Grigios flavored with fresh squeezed lime and lemon. This tender time between seasons calls for a wine that dons plumes of finesse and voluptuous notes of ripe stone fruits. Sauvignon Blanc strikes us with stiletto heels of acidity, tart flavors of grapefruit, and that reminiscent sniff of freshly cut hay. Thus, Sauvignon Blanc proves not the perfect fit. Rather, the way to go this time of year is with a wine that harnesses split personalities. The appropriate bride for this marriage would be the stoic grape from Austria, Grüner Veltliner, pronounced with a ringing Austrian accent: Velt-LEEN-er.

The beauty of Grüner Veltliner is that it has sprung all over the grocery store shelves and at your local vintner shops. This bride flirts with numerous of styles. The Grüner grapes produce wines of light, dainty bodies to full-fledged, voluminous curves. A tell-tale sign when Grüner rests in your glass is the slight presence of dissolved CO2. Surprisingly, the sensation of spritz is not passed on to your palate. Rather, this wine can deliver sensations of a world renowned white burgundy (aka fancy Chardonnay from France) unfolding myriads of richness and texture that can age in bottle for a decade or more. Most importantly, for these tender times, Grüner pairs with meat, yes, red meat; in addition to fish and green vegetables.

So, the next time you visit the Farmer’s market or your local grocer, search for the ingredients to make an asparagus frittata and spring for a Grüner Veltliner. Or better yet, make a meal with heirloom beans and edamame. Check out this amazing farmer’s website, Rancho Gordo, who is preserving the genetic line of heritage beans in Napa Valley http://www.ranchogordo.com/html/v_beans.htm. Plant these babies in your spring garden and spare them from extinction. You will reap the benefits tenfold in flavor, texture, and freshness. Plus, the groo-vee way to experience beans is with a velvety Velt-LEEN-er. More food thoughts with Grüner could be unique deviled egg preparations for your spring brunch table—make ‘em with bacon, cheese, curry, or the tried-and-true paprika.

Some tip top suggestions to seek out (but, don’t let the Austrian wine label scare you off!):

Hirtzberger, Smaragd Honivogl
Knoll, Smaragd Schütt
F X Pichler, Smaragd Kellerberg
Prager, Smaragd Achleiten
Bründlmayer, Käferberg
Loimer, Spiegel Alte Reben
Steininger, Kamptal