The Best Wines to Pair with Fish, Pasta, and Cheesecake for Shavuot!
While the official "chag ha’aviv," the holiday of spring, is Passover, it is actually Shavuot that usually occurs at the peak of the spring season (at least, from a Northern Hemisphere perspective). While many, if not most people, serve at least one fleishig meal over Yom Tov, the well-known custom is to highlight dairy and lighter dishes such as pasta, quiches, fish, salads, and, of course, cheesecake! It so happens that white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert wines are best suited to accompany such delicacies. These wines are also served chilled, which is quite welcome considering the milder, sometimes even hot temperatures this time of year, depending on where you reside. Let's take a look at some of my favorites.
Rosé Wines + Salads and Light Snacks
Rosé wines are the ultimate spring and summer quaffers. They are often enjoyed outdoors, ice-cold, and typically do not commend much reflection. Their purpose is simple: casual enjoyment. Most rosé wines do not have a long shelf life, and it is my usual recommendation to drink them within six to 12 months from release. I suggest enjoying rosé with salads or light snacks at the beginning of a meal, or on its own -- perhaps while learning on the night of Shavuot as it will be refreshing without taking one’s mind away from the sugiya. Château Roubine Premium Cru Classé 2020 is arguably one of the finest rosé wines available. It has a very pale pink hue with notes of cherries, fresh strawberries, and peach and plenty of balancing acidity. Drinking a rosé wine, as relaxing as it is, does not mean you should compromise on the quality. With Château Roubine you have a well-crafted wine made by one of the best producers of rosé wines in Provence.
White Wines + Fish and Cheesecake
Moving on to the whites, Spain has a lot more to offer beyond the reds, such as the fantastic blends from Priorat and Monsant or the great Tempranillo wines from the Rioja region. Elvi Wines has been making the Herenza White for over 10 years now, and it is one of the finest kosher white wines out there. It is a blend of the indigenous Pansa Blanca variety complemented by the well-known Sauvignon Blanc and aged in stainless steel tanks. Aside from its quality, uniqueness, and complexity, the Elvi Herenza White 2018 remains very reasonably priced. This is a wine I would drink with delicate dishes such as gravlax, but also, for instance, with a richer cod fish and chips.
I have written multiple times about Riesling wines, especially the delicious, semi-dry Pacifica Riesling. Riesling has a “sibling” which has recently become popular: Gewürztraminer. They both grow remarkably well in Germany and Alsace in France. Still, one can find some excellent options from California and Israel, as well. Jezreel Valley Winery in Israel has made a name for itself with its red wines based on grape varieties such as Argaman and Carignan, reflecting the Israeli terroir and climate more than Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Chardonnay for the whites. While Israel has a very different landscape and a hotter, drier climate than Germany, Gewürztraminer seems to have adapted well. The Jezreel Gewürztraminer 2019 features some remarkable aromatics of lychee, pineapple, citrus blossom, and apricot. It is semi-dry, along with balancing acidity with some great pairing options, from spicy tuna poke bowl to cheesecake.
Red Wines + Pasta and Cheesecake
Despite my affinity for and continuous advocacy of white wine, I acknowledge that some fish and even pasta dishes are better paired with red wines than with whites. For example, a pepper-crusted red tuna steak or baked salmon filet will be significantly elevated by a glass of ethereal, elegant, and refined Herzog Special Reserve Pinot Noir Edna Valley 2019. While truly delightful now, this is a wine that can gain a lot from proper aging over the coming 10 years or so. Pasta dishes are popular on Shavuot, and whether you choose to make a cheese lasagna or spaghetti Bolognese, the juicy, savory, earthy Terra di Seta Chianti Classico 2019 will help make your Shavuot meal truly unforgettable! The Château de Rayne Vigneau Sauternes 2018 can be enjoyed on its own or with dessert. It shows incredible depth with layers of marzipan, mango chutney, dried apricots, vanilla, and kumquat jelly, coupled with slightly spicy ginger notes and mouth-watering acidity, keeping it from the sin of being too sweet. It will, however, be a fantastic companion to a traditional New York cheesecake or an apple cobbler.
Wishing you a meaningful and delicious Shavuot. L’chaim!