Easter dinner is every bit the train wreck that Thanksgiving is, at least from the perspective of picking the perfect wine. Such abundance, such variety, sweet stuff, tart stuff, salty stuff. No one wine will do. A forest of wine bottles would cover your table to accommodate the pairings for the varied dishes.
So abandon all hope ye who aspire to find that “perfect” Easter wine.
What you can do is have a nice selection of what I call Goldilocks wines, not too big, not too small, not too oaky, wines that are juuust right.
Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay lovers will notice the absence of their favorite wines in the following list. While there are exceptions, cabs and chards are not middle-of-the-road enough.
I’m high on acid, or perhaps I should say I’m big on wines high in acidity. Acidic wines brighten flavors in many foods and have a refreshing, palate-cleansing quality. Acidic wines, generally speaking, are not fermented or aged in new oak barrels. Oaky wines make for tricky wine partners and overly oaked wines can overshadow many dishes.
New Zealand sauvignon blancs are a crowd-pleasing, food-friendly choice. Some deride Kiwi sauvignon blancs as having a fruit salad quality, but when one of the Easter dinner dishes could be fruit salad (or roasted pineapple alongside a cherry-glazed ham), what could be better? If you’re having a gang over, these wines are pocketbook friendly, too. You’d be hard pressed to find one over $20. I particularly like Benchlands ($15) or Oyster Bay ($14).
An historically overlooked category for wine pairing is sparkling wine. Low in alcohol, crisply acidic and with just the right amount celebratory spirit, bubbly makes most any dish a winner. I particularly like rosé sparklers with fried foods. Southern fried chicken or fritto misto (fish or vegetable) pair nicely with brut-style pinkish bubbles. Not too long ago, I thoroughly enjoyed a bottle of H. Billiot & Fils Brut Rosé ($56) from Champagne with deep-fried chicken breasts. A less-expensive option is Segura Viudas Brut Rosé ($10) from Spain.
I’ve said it before and I’m briefly saying it again here: grüner veltliner from Austria is my nominee for the most food-friendly wine in the world. My fave is the Nigl ($25). My second favorite is Domane Wachau ($17).
Lots of choices abound for red options that are nicely acidic, such as pinot noirs from cooler regions, barberas from northern Italy and garnachas/grenaches from Spain and southern France. A wine that I tried recently defies categories—and makes for a pleasant Easter dinner companion. It is the Reserva Cabernet Franc-Carmenere from Oveja Negra ($13). Made in Chile’s Maule Valley, 200 miles south of Santiago, this medium-bodied wine goes nicely with most any dish and will put smiles on the faces of guests hankering for a cabernet sauvignon.
So, whether it’s ham, lamb or ratatouille, enjoy Easter dinner with a glass wine and remember it is the people surrounding the table that are most important, not what’s on the table.
Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator and a consultant for a metro-Atlanta wine shop.You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Gil Kulers, AJC Drink blog