Traditionally, the Easter dinner groaning board bears the weight of big chunks of ham or lamb. But that doesn’t mean it has to become stale and routine. And the same is true for the wines that go with it.
A majority of Easter recipes for ham include some sweetness – whole hams crosshatched, even spiral-cut, glazed with unctuous toppings including pineapple juice, peaches, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, blueberry jam, cola, root beer, even dessert wines such as Madeira or Marsala.
These mostly call for wines with a hint of sweetness. An off-dry riesling, perhaps, or a lightly sweet rosé.
But your Easter ham doesn’t have to be sweet. A quick Google search will turn up dry and savory recipes as well – ham slowly baked with nothing more than chicken broth for moisture. Websites also turn up a traditional Italian Easter recipe for pizza rustica, sometimes called Easter pie, in which ham is mixed with sausage, prosciutto and mozzarella encased in a thick pizza dough.
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Or you can do a decidedly not-sweet glaze of spicy mustard, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, black pepper and garlic. These go well with light, fruity, dry red wines such as pinot noir. Or try a dry rosé. It figures: If white wine goes with white meat and red wine goes with red meat, why wouldn’t pink wine go with pink meat? And it does, very nicely.
Lamb, for its part, has wonderful rich, meaty flavors that lend themselves to a wide range of recipes and a wide range of red wines.
For example, Allrecipes.com features roast lamb in several forms:
▪ It can be simply scented with garlic and rosemary and go well with a straightforward merlot.
▪ It can be crusted with Parmesan and breadcrumbs plus mustard, garlic and mint leaves, and it can be matched by a rich malbec from Argentina.
▪ Or you could go all out with leg of lamb stuffed with figs, currants, honey and creme de cassis liqueur, and complement it with a hearty, red zinfandel.
▪ Finally, your lamb could be marinated in red wine vinegar, raspberry jam and rosemary, and be nicely paired with a fruity red lambrusco from Italy.
When dessert arrives, whether it be the traditional hot cross buns, Italian panettone, a coconut-cream-frosted Easter bunny cake from Betty Crocker or an exotic pavlova with rhubarb and pistachios, you need a sweet dessert wine. For a white wine, a late-harvest sauvignon blanc goes well; if you want a red dessert wine, try an Italian sweet red brachetto wine.
Confession: I thought about including a recipe and wine match for slow-cooker rabbit stew, but then I thought better of it. I’ll leave that to Elmer Fudd.
▪ 2013 M. Chapoutier Cotes-du-Rhone “Belleruche” Rose, Rhone, France (grenache, cinsault, syrah): salmon-pink hue, light, dry and crisp, with red raspberry aromas and flavors; $16.
▪ 2013 Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen “Eroica” Riesling, Columbia Valley, Wash.: crisp and lightly sweet, with intense aromas and flavors of ripe green apples, melons and minerals; $22.
▪ 2012 Merry Edwards Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley: a lush, sweet white dessert wine with aromas and flavors of ripe mangos, peaches and cream finish; $45 per half bottle.
▪ 2013 Galerie Wines “Naissance” Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley: crisp and light, with concentrated citrus and ripe peach aromas and flavors, hint of minerals; $30.
▪ 2012 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highland: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black cherries and spice, smooth texture, ripe tannins; $35.
▪ 2012 Soave Classico “Vigneti di Foscarino” DOC (garganega): a lightly sweet white wine with floral aromas and flavors of apples and nuts; $24.
▪ 2012 Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, Vigneto Enrico Cialdini, Emilia-Romagna (lambrusco): rich, red, dry and frothy, with strawberry flavors; $15.
▪ 2010 Grgich Hills Estate Merlot, Napa Valley: rich and mellow, with aromas and flavors of black plums, licorice and spice; $42.
▪ 2011 Buried Cane Heartwood Rhone Blend Red Wine, Columbia Valley, Wash. (54 percent syrah, 15 percent cinsault, 14 percent mourvedre, 7 percent grenache, 6 percent counoise, 4 percent viognier): toasty oak, soft but concentrated, aromas and flavors of black raspberries and herbs; $15.
▪ 2013 Alamos malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (90 percent malbec, 6 percent syrah, 4 percent bonarda): aromas and flavors of black cherries and cinnamon, full body, ripe tannins; $13.
▪ 2012 Valley of the Moon Zinfandel, Sonoma County: dark violet color, aromas and flavors of black raspberries and cinnamon, hearty and full-bodied; $15.
▪ 2011 Bodegas Sal Valero “Particular” Garnacha, Carinena, Spain: very dark color, soft, aromas and flavors of ripe black plums and milk chocolate; $10.
▪ Nonvintage Martini and Rosssi Sparkling White Asti, Piedmont, Italy (moscato bianco): lightly fizzy, lightly sweet and low in alcohol, aromas and flavors of tangerines and lemons, $14.
▪ Nonvintage Banfi “Rosa Regale,” sweet red sparkling wine, Piedmont, Italy (brachetto): rose petal aromas, sweet strawberry flavors, $19.