Easter is a huge reason for celebration. Even if you’re not religious, you may celebrate the day sharing a great meal with family and friends. What could go better with great food and loved ones than a great wine? But what wines are right for your Easter table?
The right wine may be difficult to find because every gathering may highlight a different sort of food. We’ll look at three Easter favorites and recommend wines that pair with each, but remember, because of the great variety of palates, flavors and textures, virtually any well-made wine will work. It’s not all about the wine and food, but about those we share it with.
We watch our budget when recommending wines, but this is a holiday and time to splurge. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t pay attention to price-versus-value.
The Easter ham is as classic as it gets. As a friend of mine from the South once said in his fabulous Southern twang, “The Lord knew what he was doin’ when he made the pig.” Salty, sweet, a bit spicy and luxuriously fatty ham can stand up to many kinds of wine, but I reach for Riesling. There’s no finer place in the world for Riesling than Germany. Look for German Riesling labels with “kabinett” on the label. Kabinett means “bone dry.” This wine has ripping high acidity and zippy flavors that pair wonderfully with ham. But don’t be afraid to push your limits and look for a Spätlese. These bottlings are slightly sweet and low in alcohol, and the sugar balances out the bracing acidity. Spätlese also plays wonderfully with ham that has a sweet glaze because a sweet glaze can make dry wines taste sour, and you don’t want that.
Recommendation: Joh. Jos Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese 2020, $47, available at Binny’s. Pretty mineral notes on the nose go with flavors of apricot, tangerine and hints of lavender.
Another Easter classic is leg of lamb. Grilled or roasted, the savory spring lamb with plenty of herbs makes it easy to pair with virtually any high-quality red wine. Burgundy, Napa Cabernet, Priorat or Barolo all will make you happy. This year I’m going with Chianti Classico. Wild game is a hallmark of this Italian wine region located in the heart of Tuscany. So, the wines from there pair harmoniously with the slight gaminess of the lamb. Flavors of red berries, purple flowers, silky tannins and bright acidity will have your guests swooning over a hunk of grilled lamb leg. One of my everyday favorite wines from this region is Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico. This wine comes from the most perfect Italian hamlet that sits high on southern-facing slopes. The vineyards here allow the grapes to drink in the sun of the long Tuscan summer days. Grab a bottle of the Riserva, still a steal at $40.
Recommendation: Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2019, $40, available at Binny’s. Flavors of black cherry intermingle with notes of violet and orange zest. This wine is meant to go with meat.
And finally, everyone loves Easter brunch. The sun is shining, spring is here, you’re with friends and family, and the table is full of favorites. In my house, growing up Polish, it was kielbasa, hard-boiled eggs, white borscht, rye bread and a lamb cake. Your table likely couldn’t be farther from any of my childhood favorites, but that’s okay, there’s a wine that pairs perfectly with just about anything you serve, and will almost always impress your guests. Champagne! Fruity, toasty and effervescent with lively acidity, this classic is made to celebrate with. And since this is a celebration, don’t hold back: go with the real thing and spend as much as you comfortably can.
Recommendation: Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, available at Binny’s for $65, or take the splurge on a magnum for $135. This complex, lively Champagne shows off flavors of golden delicious apple, sweet citrus, followed by tropical notes. Combined with hints of toasted brioche and linear acidity, this classic example of Champagne will bring smiles to the faces of your friends and loved ones this Easter Sunday. Drink this good stuff unadulterated. If you must have a mimosa, grab a bottle of Prosecco.