Forget about the winter that seemed like it would never end with these light and lively bottles.
It looks like we may finally be able to swap out our sweaters for shorts, and our boots for sandals. And while we’re at it, why not trade in all those full-bodied, heavy-on-the-ABV bottles you’ve been drinking all winter? Peruse this guide, and pick up a few new selections the next time you hit up the wine store. They are guaranteed to wash away any bitter memories of shoveling show, record-breaking cold temps and endless school closings. I’ll drink to that.
The wine: Berlucchi Franciacorta ’61 Brut
Buy it: Order it at Bibiana Osteria.
Sniff and sip it: Say it with me: Italian sparkling wine is not always Prosecco. Nothing against the über-popular, simple quaffer, but if you prefer your bubbly to have a touch of the complexity and bread-y notes associated with Champagne, look to Franciacorta from the Lombardy region. It’s produced in the metodo classico (also called the traditional method), where the secondary fermentation, which adds the bubbles and those enticing yeasty notes, happens in the bottle, unlike in a tank as with Prosecco. It has 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, and pleasing notes of apple and pear, a balance of weight and lively acidity on the palate, and a citrus-y finish.
Pair it: You don’t really need to eat anything with this wine, but it’s perfect as an aperitif, or alongside anything salty and fried, like beer-battered fish and chips, or fried anchovies, smelt or sardines.
The wine: 2013 Old Westminster Winery Chardonnay, Maryland
Buy it: The Wine Harvest (Check the winery’s website for more spots to find it.)
Sniff and Sip it: Tired of chardonnays that claim to have “just a hint” of oak, only to be overcome with the sensation of a 2×4 in your mouth when you sip it? Yeah, me too. This just-released wine from the trio of siblings behind one of Maryland’s best new wineries represents the second vintage of their Chardonnay. It’s bright and fresh, with mouthwatering acidity balanced with just the right amount of roundness, and notes that range from citrus to tropical. It feels light on the palate and finishes cleanly, reminding me of some of the more elegant, affordable options in Burgundy.
Pair it: Try it with crab cakes served with a mango slaw, or lobster tacos.
The wine: 2012 Mulderbosch Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa
Buy it: Pearson’s Wine and Spirits, MacArthur Beverages
Sniff and Sip it: If you often find California Sauvignon Blanc too ripe and fruity, but think that some of the ones coming out of New Zealand have become too aggressively tart and herbaceous over the past few vintages, give this one a try. Tropical and grapefruit aromas are joined by an appealing minerality, zest acidity and more complexity than you’d expect; a touch of Semillon rounds out the finish.
Pair it: This wine is lovely with a burrata salad with tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil, as the acidity matches that of the tomatoes, and also cuts through the creamy, dreamy cheese.
The wine: 2012 Laxas Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain
Buy it: Paul’s Wine and Spirits
Sniff and Sip it: I can’t say it enough: I love Albariño. If you are looking for a wine to add to your repertoire this season, this is it. And this wine is a great example of the varietals, with signature aromas of green apple and stone fruits like peaches and apricots. The palate is vibrant and refreshing, yet with some weight and body; it can deftly stand up next to both light and more full-flavored dishes.
Pair it: Its mineral quality and spritz makes Albariño a winning partner with oysters on the half shell, served simply with a squirt of lemon and maybe a spoonful of mignonette. (Rias Baixas is on the Spain’s Atlantic coast, and locals serve it with any and all kinds of seafood).
The wine: 2012 Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California
Buy it: Harris Teeter, Calvert Woodley
Sniff and sip it: Pinot Noir should smell and taste like, well, Pinot Noir. I taste too many examples from California that attempt to coax the grape into something it’s not, by techniques including over extraction and extended skin contact. The Wild Horse is varietally correct. While not terribly complex, it has the grape’s signature aromas (cranberry, red cherry, forest floor) and flavors (lush cherry, mushroom). It also looks like Pinot (translucent ruby), which translates to light, silky tannins and a smooth finish.
Pair it: Chill a bottle down to cellar temperature (which is not the same as room temperature, especially in the warmer weather), and serve it with cedar-planked wild salmon topped with a blend of chopped fresh rosemary, smoked paprika, garlic and a drizzle of honey.
The wine: 2010 McKinley Springs Winery Bombing Range Red, Washington State
Buy it: The Waterfront Market, Bottle Stop
Sniff and Sip it: A blend of 56% Syrah, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 10% Mourvèdre, the wine shows dark cherry and a spiciness on the nose that’s joined by blackberries and baking spices like cloves on the palate. The tannins are approachable and not overpowering, and the finish is persistent and peppery. The wine has a cool backstory, too. During World War II, the 2,000-acre McKinley Springs Winery was used as a training site for fighter pilots; to this day workers still find empty casings.
Pair it: I served it alongside pork ribs that were baked and then finished on the grill, and doused in Dinosaur BBQ Sauce. It would work equally well with brisket, pulled pork or flank steak.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.