By Nan McCreary
Here we are, barely recovering from our gastro-fest at the 2022 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and it’s time to start thinking about another culinary indulgence: our annual Easter feast. Whether we’re snacking on Peeps or enjoying a five-course meal featuring glazed ham or roasted lamb, it’s a wonderful opportunity to enjoy tried and true pairings or explore new ones. When selecting your wines, keep this thought in mind: many Easter dinner entrees are sugary, so acid and fruitiness become key factors in successful pairings.
Easter brunch is the quintessential occasion to offer a plethora of food choices, from eggs Benedict to French toast to salmon-laden bagels. While such a bountiful spread may present a pairing challenge, the key is to select a light, zippy wine that will offset the richness and/or creaminess of the dishes on the buffet. You can’t go wrong with bubbles, for instance, be it Champagne, Cava, Prosecco or a Crémant (a less-expensive bubbly made outside of the Champagne region in France). You might also consider a light white wine such as a Muscadet or a Portuguese Vinho Verde, or even a Rosé, which is always a bright and refreshing palate pleaser.
A traditional Easter dinner features lamb, ham, or poultry as the centerpiece. For a perfect pairing, concentrate on the main ingredient and match its flavors with the right wine flavors and undertones. If lamb is your choice, you’ll want a wine that will stand up to the intensity, earthiness and fattiness of the meat, but not overwhelm its delicate flavor. Some say that lamb and Cabernet Sauvignon is the ultimate pairing, as the full-bodied wine balances the richness of the meat. Zinfandel and Malbec are also robust wines that, with their fruity undertones, will complement the juiciness of the lamb. For many, ham has become the go-to dish for an Easter feast. A glazed ham, with a sugary confection that complements the high sodium content of the meat, calls for a wine with bold fruit, a touch of sweetness and plenty of acidity. For many, that would be a Pinot Noir. With its low tannins, high acidity and fruity berry notes, Pinot Noir offers a match made in heaven. Another option for a red wine is a Beaujolais, a light and fruity wine with low tannins that will not overpower the meat. For a white wine, go for a dry Riesling. With its crisp acidity and flavors of apple, peach and citrus, Riesling is a favorite pairing for many Easter diners. Another option is an off-dry or slightly sweet Gewürztraminer, which is bursting with sweet fruity flavors, and offers a perfect match if you’re serving a sweet honey-baked ham.
Poultry, especially duck, can provide an elegant centerpiece to the Easter table. Seasoned with sweet glazes and spicy rubs, the flavor-rich fat of duck screams for Pinot Noir. The low tannins and high acid of the Pinot will cut through the fattiness in the duck, and the wine’s flavors work with many accents and seasonings. Red wines from Spain, especially smokey, oaky Riojas are also a natural match for duck. If you’d prefer a white, try off-dry whites like Gewürztraminer or an Alsatian Rieslings. The combination of high acidity and fresh fruit aromas helps bring all the flavors together. Roasted chicken and turkey are also popular choices for an Easter celebration. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are frequent partners, as is a Provencal Rosé because it’s fresh, fruity and light.
Easter is the time to devour sweet treats, so make sure you have a sweet wine or two to complement the dessert. Just remember, choose a wine that’s sweeter than the dessert to avoid a bitter aftertaste. Also, follow the weight-per-weight rule: pair dark and rich chocolate with a full-bodied red, such as Zinfandel or Port or the Italian semi-sparkler, Brachetto d'Acqui. Pair light desserts like fruit and cream with a sweet white, such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling or Moscato d'Asti. If your idea of desserts means nibbling away at the ears of milk chocolate bunny, pair those nibblies with a fortified wine such as a Port or a Malmsey Madeira, or an Italian Ripasso-style wine, Recioto della Valpolicella. If you insist on sneaking a few Peeps after dinner, complement them with, what else, Champagne. It will take your Easter tasting to a whole new level.