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Soak Up Spring With Crisper, Chilled Wines and Lighter Reds

Wine experts share the bottles they’re excited to welcome warmer temps

Janice Williams By March 17, 2022
illustration of people outside in a spring garden
Spring garden illustration by Tetiana Lazunova/iStock. Wine glass illustrations by Gastonbolivario/iStock.

The clocks have sprung forward. The sun is setting later in the evening. And people are opting for refreshing light wines over the big, bold reds and full-bodied whites. Spring is finally on its way.

Wine experts are already noticing the shift in customers’ preferences at restaurants. 

Spring toward the whites

“Our sommelier, Sunhee Park, recently noted that guests have already started to gravitate more towards lighter wines including chillable reds, rosés, and whites as the weather warms up,” says Amy Racine, beverage director at Ardor at West Hollywood Edition hotel.

The Los Angeles haunt is starting to shift the menu from earthier, weighted whites like oaked Chardonnay and reds like Nebbiolo to showcase a larger variety of lighter wines to match the array of seasonal food items soon gracing the menu. 

“The menu shifts to embrace the local produce, so we love those mineral-driven wines that well-accent asparagus and fresh herbs,” says Racine. 

Austrian Grüner Veltliner is a wine that typically works well with lighter spring dishes. Guests at the Ardor often seek out glasses of the Weingut Bründlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Austria Grüner Veltliner. So Racine keeps it stockpiled for the warmer months.

“The Grüner has a white peppery spice we love with the fresh greens and artichokes that come with spring. It really goes with everything,” she says. 

At BottlesUp! in Chicago, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, in particular, is a consistent top-seller throughout the spring, according to owner Melissa Zeman. She notes bottles of vibrant Vinho Verde from Portugal and crispy Txakoli from Spain also surge when the season changes. 

However, this year, Zeman hopes to get shoppers hooked on refreshing white wines from other corners of the map. 

“I think Greek wine needs more attention, as does German wine. Both countries are doing delicious, interesting things with indigenous grapes like Agiorgitiko/Assyrtiko and Trollinger/Elbling, respectively,” Zeman says. “In terms of seasonal food pairings and perfect picnic wines, these are fun, different options. They have that fresh spring energy.”

A race for rosé

Expect to see plenty of pink wines on retail shelves this spring. Although many people subscribe to a “rosé all day” lifestyle and drink the wine all year round, spring is when most of the new vintages are released, and drinkers can find the latest crop of current wines. Harlem Wine Gallery in New York City dedicates an entire table to rosés starting in May.

“It’s so popular that people got disappointed one year when I changed it in July. Now I leave it until the end of August,” says Daneen Lewis, who co-owns Harlem Wine Gallery with her husband, Pascal Lewis. 

Zeman throws a Run for Rosé 5K race to help customers in Chicago celebrate the arrival of new vintages. Participants run two distinct routes around the city, with both ending at Bottles Up! The race is followed by a rosé-themed after-party at the store where people can taste new and old vintages of wine. 

Bottles Up! even releases its own private label rosé in honor of the changing season. Named B-U-tiful, the wine is a collaboration between Zeman, Chicago-based importer and distributor Vinejoy, and winemaker Andrew Jones, founder of Field Recordings wines in Paso Robles, California. 

“It should be arriving soon, and I feel like when it does, it signifies a switch in me mentally. Like, shake off the snow, and let’s freaking go,” Zeman says. “It’s chock full of strawberry notes too, which reminds me of picking berries in my grandma’s garden.”

Don’t forget about the reds

This spring won’t just be about electric, crispy whites and rosés. There are some easy-drinking red wines that, after a light chill, hit the spot while drinking in warmer weather, like Pinot Noir from Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot Volnay. It’s a new wine list feature at Ardor that Racine says is excellent for the spring. 

“It has a fennel and anise tone that can cover anything from veggie entrees to beef without being too heavy. With a slight chill, this is the perfect spring and summer red,” Racine says. 

Larissa Castelluber, the owner of Rebel Wine Bar in Oakland Park, Florida, is excited to add an Austrian Zweigelt to the menu in the upcoming weeks.

“We plan for more of the crisper, chilled wines and lighter reds that tend to be more refreshing and easier for the newer wine drinker,” says Castelluber.

Regardless of preference, there’s much to be excited about for the arrival of spring, and there are plenty of options readily available to help drinkers gear up for the new season.

Bottles to try:

bottle of Pavette Central Coast Pinot Noir

Pavette Central Coast Pinot Noir 2020 (~$13)

Produced in Central California, this wine displays ripe red fruit notes and a generous spicy, herbal aroma. The wine is a cherry and cranberry flavor crush backed by subtle tannins that make for easy drinking on the palate. Castelluber recommends giving the bottle a slight chill for optimum sipping.

bottle of Zum Martin Sepp - 2019

Martinshof Zum Martin Sepp Austria Zweigelt Rosé 2019 (~$14)

In the mood for something fresh and clean with noticeable citrus? This Zweigelt rosé, made in the town of Grinzing on the northern outskirts of Vienna, gets the job done for guests at Rebel Wine Bar. The wine is booming with aromas of grapefruit and citrus but cleans up with a hint of white pepper spice and minerality.

bottle of Adegas Tollodouro Blanquito Rias Baixas Albariño

Adegas Tollodouro Blanquito Rías Baixas Albariño 2019 (~$15)

This is a wine Castelluber says customers always ask for. And who could blame them? In the sweltering heat of Florida, this wine from the Rías Baixas region of Spain is the ultimate cooldown. Though the aroma is full of green and grassy fragrances, the palate is a bomb of citrus and green apple flavors highlighted by bracing acidity.

bottle of Domaine Skouras Peloponnese Moscofilero

Domaine Skouras Peloponnese Moscofilero 2020 (~$16)

Peloponnesos, located within Greece’s Argolida Valley, is known for producing citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and tangerines in addition to olives. So it’s no wonder that this wine, made with Moscofilero grapes, is distinctive with similar citrus fruit aromas and flavors. “It’s mineral-driven due to the vineyard’s proximity to the ocean,” says Racine, adding. “It’s excellent with raw bar and the crunchy spring produce we get in, especially cucumber, peppers, and string beans.”

bottle of Chateau Auguste Bordeaux

Château Auguste Bordeaux 2016 (~$20)

A wine famous for its approachability, this Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc consistently receives critic scores of 90 points or higher despite its inexpensive price point. Pronounced black fruit and cedar lead the aroma while the palate is lush with blueberry and dark plum flavors. The tannins are soft and well-integrated, leading to a smooth and lengthy finish.

bottle of Cantine Barbera Coste al Vento Sicily Grillo Menf

Cantine Barbera Coste al Vento Menfi Grillo 2020 (~$25)

Marilena Barbera produces natural and organic wines in the coastal region of Sicily, within the hilly region of Menfi near the Mediterranean Sea. The wine is made with the native Italian grape Grillo and features bright acidity, mineral, and saline characteristics. “It’s a perfect end-of-day wine to unwind and relax. It gets you thinking of gardening with all of the herbaceous notes,” Lewis says. “This will be one to drink this spring before transitioning to summer sippers.”

bottle of Buona Notte Panna Cotta Columbia Valley Chardonnay

Buona Notte Panna Cotta Columbia Gorge Chardonnay 2020 (~$27)

Buona Notte wines offer a taste of Italy from a Pacific Northwest point of view. Produced in Oregon’s Columbia Valley, this skin-contact Chardonnay displays a dazzling orange hue and a silky texture reminiscent of the Italian dessert, panna cotta. “I am particularly excited about Buona Notte wines. Our customers appreciate small artisanal family-made wines, so this will make a nice addition to the shop,” says Lewis.

bottle of Brundlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Gruner Veltliner

Weingut Bründlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Austria Grüner Veltliner 2020 (~$29)

Now here’s a lively wine full of complexity. Produced in the Kamptal wine region of Austria, this Grüner Veltliner is layered with aromas of tropical fruits and spices. The palate is awash with lean citrus notes of lemon, grapefruit, and a slice of green apple. The wine is full-bodied and features a vibrant, structured finish.

bottle of Holus Bolus Roussanne Santa Maria Valley 2017

Holus Bolus Santa Maria Valley Roussanne 2017 (~$33)

This biodynamic Roussanne hails from the Santa Maria Valley within the cool-climate region of northern Santa Barbara. The wine is concentrated with intense complexity, unforgettable aromas, and balanced acidity. “This is one of the best examples of California Roussanne,” says Racine. “I love the luscious texture and honeyed fruit flavors.”