Easter Wines for Happy Times

Easter is just around the corner! Since we are all just staying home this year, what are we cooking?

Usually, ham and lamb are on the menu for a traditional Easter dinner, so I thought I’d throw out some suggestions of wines that will pair nicely with either. Remember with any food and wine pairings, one of the most important rules is to make sure that the weight of each is about equal. You can absolutely still have white wine with meat as long as it’s not going to be overpowered by the food. Balance is key, and there are some other rules that come into play after that.

Here are some wine suggestions for your Easter meal.

Lamb-based Easter Dinner

Australian Shiraz

I say Shiraz because lamb is typically a juicy, more gamey meat than say your typical steak. It can be prepared many ways, but if you’re thinking about smoking it or eating some BBQ lamb chops, you’ll need a wine that can hold its own.

Howard Park Flint Rock Syrah Great Southern, Australia
Howard Park Flint Rock Syrah Great Southern, Australia

It’s true that there is no singular “Australian Shiraz,” as each bottle is very different, but generally speaking, this style of wine is a beautiful combination of jammy, rich black and red fruits, peppery spice, and sometimes a more rustic quality. Does that sound like flavors you would like to have with your lamb? I think so!

I’m tempted to throw you over to my April Vino Column for more suggestions of Shiraz and other Australian wines, but keep in mind those wines are all under $15.

For other Shiraz options, look for Penfolds if you want to be fancy. But if you want a different brand, look for Cape Mentelle. I’m a big fan of wines from western Australian, and Cape Mentelle is a producer located in the Margaret River region. I also love Howard Park’s Syrah from the western Australian region of “Great Southern.”

American Zinfandel

American Zin can be another option with your juicy lamb. The style of most American Zins is pretty jammy with occasional spice too. I’d be careful with this one because a Zin that is not well made can be flabby and lacking in structure. You’re going to want some acidity and tannins to mesh with the fatty meat. However, a really well balanced Zin with all the right components can be a welcomed treat in a meal with an equally as juicy piece of meat.

Ham

Ham can also be tricky because it can be prepared several different ways with competing flavors. Are you eating smoked ham? Honey baked ham? These different preparations would call for different types of wines. Let’s get into them.

Honey-Baked Ham

For that sweet and salty mix, try a wine like a Gewürztraminer from Germany or maybe even a bottle from Alto Adige in Italy. This is a highly aromatic wine with great acidity that usually has honied characteristics. If you’re in the mood for a glass of something white for your meal, reach for a Gewürztraminer.

Rosé is another option you may not consider off the bat for your honey-baked ham Easter meal. If you get the right bottle, meaning one that has enough acidity (think Provence), then it can be a lovely accompaniment. The subtle red fruit flavors and crisp acidity should blend nicely with your sweet and salty dish.  Again, ask for recommendations at your local wine shop for a rosé that is good for food pairing and not just back porch sipping. There’s a difference, and it will determine whether the match is right or not.

For red wine drinkers, there’s always Grenache. I love the idea of having Grenache with every meal, but as a high-acid red wine with ripe cherry and red berry flavors, it’s a great option for pairing with meat that is both salty and not as heavy as a lamb (although, a Grenache blend like from Châteauneuf-du-Pape would be a PERFECT pairing with lamb, thanks to Syrah). New World or Old World Grenache will do. Think Garnacha from Spain, too, as a pairing for your ham. Garnacha and ham make for a legendary combo, just talk to anyone who has ever had jamón serrano. Ask your local wine shop if they carry a Garnacha called El Hombre Bala from Madrid. You won’t be disappointed.

Smoked Ham

If you are preparing your ham a little smokier, you’re going to want a different wine.

I’m thinking Pinot Noir for this pairing, but something less fruit-forward. In fact, I’m still thinking New World but more Oregon and less California. You feel me?

I just had a beautiful Oregon Pinot, which I mentioned in one of my quarantine tasting notes posts, and this would be a great match. Oregon Pinots more closely resemble their cousins in France, in my opinion, so there’s a certain rustic, terroir-driven quality to them that you don’t always get in California wines. Try one! See what you think. I’m going to suggest the one that is fresh on my mind, and that is Et Fille. Another great one is Résonance Vineyard Pinot Noir. Also, Big Table Farm Pinots are fantastic. Although, I’m sure you can find some bottles in your local wine shop as well.

Another smokey ham option would be that Châteauneuf-du-Pape I mentioned earlier. I love the idea of the smokey Syrah complementing the way the meat is prepared. The only reason I won’t recommend a Syrah on its own is because I think it might be too much if the ham isn’t too heavy. However, Syrah blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre or Cinsault seems like a better mix for a meat like ham, however smokey it may be.

When in doubt…

When in doubt, always reach for that Champagne. I don’t care who you are or where you are, Champagne is always the answer. What was the question?

Not Prosecco! Champagne. Do not mess that up! Champagne as a region is perfect for producing world-class wines that can be consumed with every part of the meal. Salty meal? Perfect, bring out the Blanc de Blancs. Spicy meal? Perfect, bring out the dry or semi-sweet Champagne. Something a little heavier? Think more oxidative styles like Krug and Bollinger. I love that there is literally a Champagne for every meal, and it is the best fall back in times of confusion.

There is a perfect wine for every meal, but sometimes that is just the wine that YOU want to drink with the meal. If none of these options appeal to you, that’s OK. I’m just here to advise and offer suggestions. The point is to enjoy. I will say though that you will always enjoy a meal with Champagne!

If you have other suggestions of wine to pair with lamb or ham or any specific producer suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Happy Easter!

 

 

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