Wine and Food Pairing

Cherry Season! Now Which Wine?

cherries-ripe-wet

Did you know we are full-blown in the middle of cherry season? So, what wine to match?

As a kid — and this was about a hundred years ago, when I rode a Triceratops named “Tate” to school — cherries were in abundance in the summertime, and I remember gorging myself on them to the point of belly aches and crimson-stained fingertips.

At some point between then and adulthood, I switched Tate for a Huffy (and then to a Schwinn before finally a Honda) and mostly forgot about cherries — not even maraschinos made their way into my diet (I don’t do sundaes nor Manhattans, and even if I wanted a Rob Roy, would anyone know how to make it?). Recently, though, I’m seeing cherries sold by every market and sidewalk fruit vendor I walk by, and, remembering that sweet juicy flesh of summertime youth, finding it difficult to pass them up. Scrumptious on their own with flavors redolent of Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, and Barbera (see what I did there?), cherries are also delicious when paired with sugar, eggs, vanilla, and other ingredients to form pies, cobblers, and pudding (more on that later).

A few things to know about cherries:

1. The season is NOW, so eat up!
Unlike many other fruits and vegetables we see in supermarket, cherries are NOT available year-round. The first cherry of the season — in the USA it’s the Brooks variety — is usually picked in Southern California around the end of April. More varieties — such as Bing, Rainier, Lambert, Chelan, Sweetheart, and others — are harvested a few weeks later, in May. Washington cherries tend to peak (and be picked) in mid-June, and, generally speaking, the season is over by Labor Day in all areas of the USA.

2. Bing brings better prices.
With the arrival of Bing cherries from California in late May, there is more supply, so prices drop. In mid-June, Bings are picked in Washington, Oregon, Michigan, and other northern climes, so the price drops again. The best deals on cherries will probably be from now through the July 4th weekend.

3. Green should be seen.
When choosing cherries, look for bright green stems that indicate freshness.

4. Keep cherries cold and away from the onions.
Assuming you’re unlike me and don’t eat the entire bag of cherries in one sitting, stash the rest in the back of the fridge and away from onions, garlic, and other strong-smelling foods. Cherries need to stay cold and will absorb the odors around them. Oh, and don’t rinse cherries when storing — only right before you eat them.

5. Pit with a clip (or a straw).
Assuming you don’t have a cherry pitter, you can easily remove pits with a regular old paper clip. Not at the office? A simple straw works even betteradd a small bottle for easy-peasy cleanup!

6. Cherries can be frozen.
Can’t eat ’em all now? Make like Ted Williams and freeze them for the future.

Now what about pairing wine with cherries? Personally, I’d go with a wine that has a really high acidity, and/or some sweetness, such as Lambrusco, Pinot Grigio, Gavi, or a racy Sauvignon Blanc. Brachetto d’Acqui is also nice, particularly with cherry-based desserts such as pies or cobblers.

Speaking of cherry-based desserts, Nick Stellino gave us a great recipe for one that pairs perfectly with Florio Targa Riserva 1840 Marsala: Cherry Almond Rice Pudding.

Do you have anything to add on selecting, storing, and enjoying cherries this season? A recipe to share? Perfect wine pairing? Let us know in the comments below!

Joe Janish is Director of Public Relations for Banfi Vintners, a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), and a veteran of the wine industry for over 20 years. He launched one of the first wine blogs back in 1997, the now-defunct “Wine Dictator,” and cut his teeth on his grandfather’s homemade wine. He still keeps a copy of Wine for Dummies nearby for reference.

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