Spring is here and the sidewalk cafés are bustling. It is so tempting to eat lunch outside everyday and occasionally indulge in a glass of wine.Over the past few years I have noticed more and more people enjoying wine with lunch. Not surprising given that the US is the largest wine market in the world, and the younger generation has embraced wine much earlier than older generations.
Another important factor is the increased attention that restaurants are giving to their ‘By-the-Glass-Program’. How many times have you felt like having a glass of wine only to find the restaurant only sells by the bottle, or the by-the-glass options are very limited. Thankfully, today, many restaurants have put considerable energy into offering varied and interesting wine selections by the glass.
For example, Easter weekend, I had lunch in a local restaurant that offered a Hungarian Dry Furmint, a German Elbling and an Indian Chenin Blanc by-the-glass. I opted for a glass of the dry Furmint. Not all by the glass offerings have to be so eclectic, just interesting with a decent number of choices.
Other factors include the proliferation of screwcap closures, as well as the advance of single serve and tetra pak packaging, which make wine easy to carry and easy to open when out on a lunchtime picnic.
What Wine to Drink With Lunch?
Which wine to choose for lunch depends on what you are eating. In this warm weather we are probably eating more salads and lighter fare. Salads can sometimes be a bit problematic for wine because of the acidity of the vinaigrette. However, there are so many ways to make a salad wine-friendly. For example, I often use verjus (the pressed juice of un-ripened grapes), lemon juice, apple juice or balsamic vinegar instead of a regular more acidic wine vinegars. It really makes a difference and lowers the overall acidity. Similarly, the ingredients in your salad (apart from the green leaves) can also help bridge the wine and the dish. For example, seared beef salad could take a red wine and spicy salads are great with slightly off-dry or fruity whites.
Similar to salads, the wine to have with your panini or sandwich can be based on the filling. Much as a dry rosé works well with a Salad Niçoise, it can also work with your tuna sandwich, or even a grilled hamburger.
That said, I would not get too stressed out about a perfect pairing. The worst thing that can happen is that the food overpowers the wine or vice-versa. Not the end of the world. If that happens, you can still enjoy both — just take a sip of water between the wine and the food or clean off your palate with some bread.
For spring I tend to favor white wines, rose or light-bodied reds slightly chilled at lunchtime. I also tend to steer away from oaked whites, unless the dish I am eating particularly calls for something a bit richer and full-bodied.
Spain and Italy are countries that I often gravitate towards for refreshing lunch whites. In Spain you have Albariño from Rias Baixas, Godello from Valdeorras or Verdejo from Ruedo. Apart from the array of Italian Pinot Grigio wines, there is also Soave from the Veneto, Gavi from Piedmont as well as many of the whites that I mentioned in my post on wine with octopus.
Wines for Lunch
Below, are some wines that I have tasted recently that would work really well with lunch.
• 2007 Channing Daughters Vino Blanco, South Fork, Long Island, New York, $20 – Had this with leek quiche and escarole salad last week. A blend made of Tocai Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and a little Chardonnay. Crisp, but also has a lovely creamy texture. White peach, nectarine, green apple and lemony flavors, floral notes and quite minerally. Would also work with fish or seafood, as well as chicken or creamy pasta dishes.
• 2008 La Cana Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain $16 – Crisp, packed with all sorts of citrus fruit, ripe apricot, nectarine, hints of white flowers and good minerality on the finish. I find this wine and most Albariños very versatile at the table and will work with a host of seafood, salad and spicy lunch fare.
• 2008 Shaya ‘Old Vines’ Verdejo, Rueda, Spain $14 – Another favorite white from Spain. Crisp, key limes, lemon custard, green apple – lots of zesty flavor to pair with a crab salad, or some of great ‘grain’ salads as in Emma’s post.
• 2007 Chateau Pazjos Dry Furmint, Tokaji, Hungary, $16 – Really tasty wine. Crisp, gold color (much deeper than most unoaked white wines), flavors of ripe apples, grapefruit, spice and minerality on the finish. For lunch this would be great with quiche, croque monsieur, cheese pizza or Caesar salad.
• 2009 Le Châtaigner, Domaine de La Citadelle Rosé, AC Luberon, France – Easy drinking fruity dry rose from the south of France. Lots of candied strawberries and raspberries on the nose, but more solid with a little tannic grip on the palate. Would be great with a hamburger.
These are just a few of the many spring wines that are refreshing, and light - perfect for a special lunchtime treat.
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
Related: Wine With Breakfast, Anyone?
(Image: Flickr member psd licensed for use under Creative Commons)