Wine for Easter Dinner

By Sunny Brown

Easter is almost here and families everywhere will be gathering around the dinner table to feast with friends and loved ones. This may not sound like the best time to think about food and wine pairings, but if your family is anything like mine the end of Lent is one of the happiest of days. Chocolate, red meat or even (gasp!) wine, whatever you may have given up for the last 40 days, it’s time to reintroduce yourself. The Easter meal should be a happy occasion, and what better way to enjoy good company than with a little vino at the table?

The nature of the meal itself seems to lead to difficulties in food and wine pairing. What to serve with ham? Everything comes at once, how do you pair wine with that? Aunt Ethel doesn’t like red wine, what the heck are we going to do? Fear not friends, finding a few good wines for the Easter table is as easy as giving up spam sandwiches for Lent. Let the festivities begin!

Starters

Welcome your guests with some light appetizers and maybe a glass of wine to lighten the mood. Champagne and sparkling wine will put a smile on the hardest of hearts and makes a great food wine as well. Look for light and dry wines to match with light hors d’oeuvres. The combination of light foods and the high acidity in dry wines stimulates the palette without stuffing your guests.

Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut Rosé
Gruet New Mexico Blanc de Noirs NV

Bruschetta makes for a light and easy beginning to a nice meal. It can be sliced into as many pieces as you may need and pairs well with a vigorous young red such as the Macìe Chianti. Shrimp Cocktail is as classic as it gets. The richness of the Logan Chardonnay works well with the meaty shrimp. Another very simple starter is just a wheel of high quality Brie with crackers on the side. Cheese is often served as an appetizer in the United States as opposed to the more classical way of serving it after the main course. Try it with a simple white such as a Italian Gavi.

The Ultimate Bruschetta
Rocca della Macìe Chianti Classico 2002

Simple Shrimp Cocktail
Logan Chardonnay Monterey Sleepy Hollow Vineyard 2001

Dinnertime!

Each entree that follows has a recommended wine pairing. The pairings are made based on weight and flavor profile. Two easy rules to follow are to pair like flavors with like flavors and match weight with weight. Thus a lightly flavored fish will go nicely with a lightly flavored white wine, but not well at all with a rich, robust glass of red. The wine would overpower the delicate fish. Conversely, a heavy red wine is a delicious addition to a hearty beef stew, but a light Pinot Grigio would get lost in the shuffle.

Seared Salmon with Roasted Pepper Mayonnaise
Louis Michel & Fils Chablis 1996

Rosemary-Garlic Roasted Chicken
Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2001

Baked Ham with Cumberland Sauce
Domaine la Fourmone Vacqueyras Sélection Maître de Chais 1998

Veal Marengo
Bodegas Palacios Remondo Rioja Propriedad H. Remondo 2001

Barbecued Lamb Chops with Citrus
Château Grand Puy Lacoste Pauillac 1999

The salmon is a rich and fatty fish so look for a Chardonnay to find a similar heaviness. The Burgundy in this case has a silky mouth-feel and zippy acidity to bring out the flavors in the fish. The delicate flavors of the roast chicken are a match made in heaven for the elegant and flavorful Drouhin Pinot Noir. But what would Easter be without a roast ham? This recipe works well with the Vacquerays, a bright and lively red from the southern part of France’s Rhone Valley. The sweet spices and blackberry jam notes of the wine blend with the richness of the ham. The veal dish is hearty yet refined, and it practically cries out for the dusty dried fruits in the Remondo Rioja. Which brings us to one of the most classical of wine pairings: That of Lamb and Bordeaux. While a little BBQ may not be what the Bordelaise had in mind when producing the Grand-Puy-Lacoste, sometimes breaking from tradition can be a good thing. The earthy and lush flavors of the lamb are a delicious match to the fruit, finesse and power of the Bordeaux.

Side Dishes

Pairing wines with sides can be tricky as the entree will always be the predominant flavor. But having a few other wines for the side-dishes adds diversity and ensures that Aunt Ethel gets her favorite, and isn’t that the most important thing?

Parmesan Vegetable Toss
Grilled Roasted Red Potatoes
Fire-Roasted Artichokes with Almonds
Melville Vineyards Santa Rita Hills Estate Chardonnay 2002

Dessert

Everyone’s favorite part of the meal. Give yourself a few minutes to recuperate and then dive on in.

Apple Cream Pie - Dutch Style
Long Vineyards Botrytis Johannisberg Riesling Napa Valley 2001

Melt In Your Mouth Peach Cobbler
Weingut Erich Bender Bissersheimer Steig Huxelrebe Beerenauslese 2000

Chocolate Orange Supreme Cheesecake
Taylor Fladgate First Estate Reserve Porto NV

A quick word on dessert wines: Often a dessert wine is sweet and delicious enough to serve by itself. If you have a very heavy dessert wine, it may be best kept to the side or served after dessert is over. Other than that the other rules for pairing wines apply. The sweet and savory apple pie works wonderfully with the spiced apricot flavors of the Long Vineyards Riesling. Sugar, peaches, pastry and honey flavors can be found in both the Beerenauslese and the cobbler. Perfecto! And not to be outdone, the silky texture of the chocolate orange cheesecake blends seamlessly with the unctuous richness of the Taylor Fladgate port.

One last rule to follow regarding wine and food pairing: There are no rules. These are just a few suggestions and guidelines to follow. Ultimately the wine that you and yours like the best will be the right choice for the Easter table. Sometimes the best pairing is the one that is the complete opposite of what should be right. Don’t be afraid to experiment and to try new ideas and wines. One thing is for certain though, the best pairing is the trio of family, friends and Easter dinner.