Expert Jill Hough’s Tips on the Best Wines for Spring

Added by
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Wine, like food, has a seasonal quality and now that it’s spring we asked Jill Silverman Hough, author of the new book 100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with the Wines You Love (Wiley), to share her tips on what to sip these days. If you enjoyed her fabulous (and easy) Coppa-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Blue Cheese with Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah this winter, you’ll love her Fish “Burgers” with Minted Napa Cabbage Slaw with Pinot Grigio now!

Spring has sprung! Do you find that as the light changes, the days get longer and warmer, you want different wines than you’ve been sipping all winter?

Definitely. Just as I crave salads in the spring and summer and stews and pot roast in the winter, I also crave different wines depending on the season. Frankly, I’m not sure if the wines I’m craving changes or if, since the food cravings change, I crave different wines because they’ll go better with those foods. Probably a little of both.

In general, what makes a wine more “spring” vs. winter or fall?

Wine preferences, and likes and dislikes about food and wine pairing, are highly personal, so it’s always important to me to acknowledge that there is no “right” thing to eat or drink and there are no hard and fast rules–other than that you should eat and drink whatever makes you happy.

That said, spring is light and bright and sunny and refreshing, so the wines that go with spring, and typical spring foods, will have similar qualities.

What are the best wines to serve with spring fare?

Right now, I’m craving light, bright whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, crisp Chardonnay. I also recently had a Viognier that I’m still thinking about.

I always think of white wines or roses in spring and summer, but are there reds that also make great sippers with spring dishes?

I’m with you regarding whites and roses in spring and summer, but I also enjoy Pinot Noir and Grenache during warmer weather. Sometimes the mood just calls for a red, and those two hit the spot because they’re lighter reds.

What’s your personal favorite go-to wine for spring?

It changes, depending on what I’m eating (or not) and what the weather is like. Right now, it’s a crisp sunny day in Napa and I could really go for a glass of crisp, sunny glass of Chardonnay.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+

Halibut "Burgers" with Minted Napa Cabbage Slaw

This halbut burger recipe, adapted from Jill Silverman Hough‘s book 100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love (Wiley), is simple way to showcase halibut, which is in season in spring and summer. Wild-caught Alaskan halibut is the most sustainable choice. “Napa cabbate has a juiciness, a refreshing crunch that regular cabbage doesn’t–which helps the slaw nicely complement a similarly light and refreshing piece of fish,” says Hough. She recommends opening a bottle of Pinot Grigio to serve with this burger. It will also work well with Chardonnay, especially if you spread some mayonnaise on the buns or boost the amount of blue cheese in the slaw. “Oh both!” says Hough. This dish is great for warm-weather entertaining because you can do much of the prep work in advance and then it comes together in no time.


Halibut “Burgers” with Minted Napa Cabbage Slaw

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 6 minutes

Yield: Serves 6


  1. 3 tablespoons white wine or Champagne vinegar
  2. 1/2 shallot, finely minced
  3. 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  4. 2-1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, or more to taste, divided
  5. 1-1/4 teaspoons black pepper, divided
  6. 5 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  7. 1/2 pound napa cabbage (about 1/4 medium head), cored and cut into 1/4-inch shreds (you should have about 3 cups)
  8. 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled blue cheese
  9. 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  10. 6 (6-ounce) firm white-fleshed fish fillets, such as halibut or sturgeon
  11. 6 whole-wheat hamburger buns, split horizontally


Combine the first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, whisking to dissolve the sugar and salt. Whisk in 3 tablespoons oil. Set aside. (You can prepare the dressing up to 3 days in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator.)

Combine the cabbage, cheese and mint in a large bowl. (You can prepare the undressed slaw up to 4 hours in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator.) Add the dressing to the slaw mixture, gently tossing to combine. Taste, ideally with your wine, and add more vinegar, salt and/or pepper if you like. Set aside.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Brush both sides of the fish with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Grill until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. During the last minute, place the buns , cut side down, on the grill to toast.

Place the fish fillets on the bottom halves of the buns. Top with the slaw and the top halves of the buns, and serve.