The Easter Bunny is hopping our way, bringing with him (or is it her?) eggs, chocolates, and of course, a big Easter feast. Whether you view Easter as a meaningful religious event, the day that frees you from your Lenten sacrifice, or simply as a time to get together with family and friends and celebrate springtime, Easter always involves a great meal. And if you're reading this blog, to you, a great meal calls for great wines.
Ham is one of the most traditional Easter dishes. Ham's dominant flavors are saltiness and, especially if your ham is glazed, sweetness. Ham calls for a wine that can cut through those strong flavors without overwhelming the more delicate flavors of the actual meat.
Highly acidic wines are your best choice. Wines that also fall on the sweeter side can be great choices too, because nothing balances salty flavors better than sweet ones. But be careful--if your ham is glazed, the combination of sweet glaze and sweet wine could be too much for your guests to handle--and if they're overwhelmed with sweet flavors, they won't be able to enjoy their Easter candy!
Riesling and Gewurztraminer are classic choices for a reason--their crisp and acidic but delicate natures make them the perfect companion to ham. If you aren't looking for a sweet wine, make sure that the bottle you're choosing is dry--many wines of both varietals are sweet. A Pinot Grigio or a lightly-oaked Chardonnay could also be good choices to accompany ham, so if one of those varietals is your favorite, don't be afraid to serve it.
Tender, flavorful spring lamb is also a popular choice for the Easter meal. Lamb is earthy yet delicate, with a powerful, lasting flavor. Lamb is made for red wine. The perfect red can vary with the method of preparation and cut of meat you're using. Sauteed veal medallions will require a more delicate red than roasted rack of lamb. Grilled lamb (and grilling is a great way to celebrate the beginning of nice weather and capture the fresh nature of springtime) needs a wine that can stand up to the smokey and charcoal-y flavors it creates.
Bordeaux is the classic pairing for lamb, and it's a good choice that will match well with this meat no matter how you are preparing it. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Malbec can also be great choices. Look for a wine with the structure (read: tannins) and finish to handle the strong flavors of lamb without overpowering it.
If you're celebrating a traditional Passover or will have a Jewish guest in attendance, you might be thinking about Kosher wines to serve. You'll be happy to learn that kosher wines have moved on from that sweet, syrupy grape juice stuff that was the only available choice in the past. Kosher wines today are produced around the world and in all classic varietals. Because of kosher wines' bad reputation, the good ones often won't advertise the fact on the label. Look for the U in a circle, meaning kosher, or the U in a circle followed by the letter P, which means that the wine is kosher for Passover (its makers had to adhere to ever stricter standards). These symbols will usually be located on the back label.
Whatever you're serving or whomever you're serving it to, there are great Easter wine options out there. Happy Easter!