In honor of spring, we feasted on a wonderfully green, satisfying meal of pearl barley risotto with zucchini, mushrooms and fresh basil and a side of roasted asparagus and ramps. To match, I searched for the greenest thing in my wine collection, which turned out to be a 2009 Iločki Podrumi Welschriesling.
The Iločki Podrumi winery lies on the right bank of the Danube near Ilok, the easternmost town of Croatia. Romans manning the local fortress likely maintained vineyards here, and wine certainly factored into the economy by the time the 15th-century “Old Cellar” was built. Capable of aging up to a million liters of wine, the Old Cellar reached the pinnacle of its fame when it supplied approximately 11,000 bottles of wine to the coronation celebrations of Elizabeth II.
I certainly felt regal during this meal. The lusciously creamy, cream-free risotto tasted luxuriously rich, the roasted asparagus had just the right amount of brown to it and the ramps — the ramps! Their leaves turned crispy, and the scallion-like bulbs caramelized into a pungent, garlic-buttery heaven. The fact that we had earlier foraged for these ramps ourselves only added to the delight of eating them.
A greenish straw color, the Welschriesling paired well with both risotto and vegetables. We detected honeycrisp apples and apricots on the nose, and a whiff of something exotic. This wouldn’t be a bad pairing for many Asian dishes.
The wine felt syrupy at the front of the tongue, with flavors of sweet butter and apricots, but food-friendly acidity asserted itself at the sides and the back. Additional flavors of white pepper came out with the risotto, and the ramps seemed especially garlicky when munched after a sip of the wine. Just a touch of stone capped the finish.
Without a doubt, spring had arrived.
2009 Iločki Podrumi Welschriesling: Food friendly, sprightly and fruity — a fine choice for a warm-weather meal or party. Chill in the refrigerator, but remove 10 minutes before serving.
Full Disclosure: This wine was provided as a free sample by Tasty Wine Company.