Easter this weekend, and many will be looking for a wine – or wines – serve to family at a holiday meal. Everyone knows that the food plays a big role in picking the wine, so I thought I would offer some ideas on what to serve with some of the favourite Easter foods – ham and lamb (the spam was just a marketing gimmick to get your attention).
With ham, it really depends on how you are going to serve it. It is usually on the sweet side, with maple or sugar or any of those kinds of coatings, I would actually go for a white wine that also is a touch sweet. Rieslings or Gewurztraminers are great choices, even if they have just a touch of residual sugar, because they have big enough body – and enough fruit – to handle both the sweetness of the glaze and the meatiness of the ham. Germany and Alsace (from France) make the best ones, but if you have/come across the Small Lots by La Frenz from BC go for it! It is an amazing wine and, at about $20, a ridiculous bargain!
Wines for lamb follow the same kind of strategy, although there are savoury options as well. If it is a very “English” mint jelly kind of lamb, stick with the Riesling. But if you are going with the more French version – with mustard, rosemary and other herbs – there are lots of great red wine options!
Pinot Noir is one, especially if you can find one that has earthy and mushroom undertones to match the flavours in the lamb. Burgundy is the traditional place to go, but that can be very expensive and, frankly, unreliable (if I had a dollar for every expensive but disappointing red Burgundy I have had, I would be a rich man!). California can also be a source of good Pinot Noir, but – ironically – the ripeness of many of the wines can work against the lamb combo, with the almost candied cherry flavours coming off as too sweet for the meat and the flavoring.
My recommendation is from BC again – for some very special wines! Kettle Valley makes two of them – the Hayman Vineyard and the Reserve. The former is very “Burgundian”, with ripe dark cherry fruit but nice earth and mushrooms to go with it. The latter is a little more Californian, but still works. The other option is from Blue Mountain. Their Reserve Pinot Noir is a great Burgundy/Cali cross, especially as it ages! All these wines can be tough to find because they aren’t made in big quantities, but worth looking for. Other options almost as good include Pinot Noirs from Eau Vivre, Howling Bluff, Averill Creek and NkMip.
If not Pinot Noir, though, go for a Grenache-based wine from the Cotes du Rhone. The inherent lavender/rosemary aromas – called “garrigue” – are perfectly suited for lamb, as are the ripe but dried cherry flavours. Chateauneuf du Pape with six to eight years of age is a great bet, especially if it is from a first rate producer like Beaucastel, Clos du Papes or Le Vieux Donjon. But a younger Cotes du Rhone from a great vintage like 2010 or 2012 also will work.
And if spam is the Easter meal of choice? Well, if you are not drinking beer…pick the best wine you can find! It will make you forget about the food you are eating.
Tags: Averill Creek, Blue Mountain, California, Chateauneuf du Pape, cotes du rhone, Easter, Eau Vivre, Food, gewurztraminer, Grenache, ham, Holiday, Howling Bluff Winery, Kettle Valley, La Frenz, lamb, NkMip, Pinot Noir, Rhone, Riesling, spam, white wines