If you’re celebrating Easter most Easter menus are centered around Ham or Lamb and depending on what your side dishes include, there are many wonderful wine choices that will work for you beautifully. Ham is generally prepared with a sweet glaze or topping to offset the inherent saltiness of the meat. The two tried and true wines that every wine article and liquor store recommend are Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Both wines offer fresh flavorful taste profiles, sweet fruit to balance the salty ham but yet have enough acid to balance off the combination and not compromise either the ham or the wine. There are many Rieslings that will do the job nicely but why not consider an Alsatian or German Riesling for their mineral laden old world character or a bright Washington State Riesling like Chateau St. Michele or one from Hogue Sellers would do very well. They are reasonably priced as well. If you are opting for a spicy Gewurztraminer, you may consider successful vintners such as Columbia Crest, Trimbach or Domaine Schlumberger. Riesling and Gewurztraminer are crowd-pleasing wines that have the versatility to handle a variety of palates while allowing for lots of preparation options for ham.
Now if you want to think outside the box, my selection this Easter is a Vouvray. This is a fresh medium and dry white wine made from Chenin Blanc grapes. It has wonderful aromas of honey and acacia underlined with a subtle and refreshing acidity. One of my favorites is Domaine de Vaufuget. Another possibility is a wonderful Spanish Albarino! Although delicate, its fruity aroma and delicate flavors make it one of my favorites. I like one Called Fulget which means Glow. There is an Albarino pictured on the label that glows when the wine reaches the proper temperature. If you don’t like the pairing, it still makes for a great conversation piece. If you must have red wine, Zinfandel is the way to go. Try Seven Deadly Zins. It has enough fruit to hold up to the ham.
Lamb is my all time favorite. Whether rack of lamb, leg of lamb, roast lamb or lamb chops, the strategy is to stick with your well grounded red wines – a red Burgundy, a northern Rhone red, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot or a Tempranillo or Syrah. You are shooting for red wines with decent tannin structure, good fruit and a finish that can endure as long as the lamb itself. The goal is to have a wine with enough fruit and acidity to handle the robust flavors of the lamb, but not overpower it in the process. No powerful Zins or Super Tuscans! This year I am having a Pinotage from South Africa. That will raise an eyebrow or two in my house.
Wines for Passover have come a long way! My Dear Teacher and Saxophone instructor Seymore Schonberger used to savor the Manishewitz Elderberry Wine for his Passover Seder. Kosher wines have come a long way since the basic Manishewitz. (Although I recently tried the blackberry wine and it is well balanced.) Someone must have sent a Rabbi or two to Ucal Davis because the quality of Kosher wines has improved quite a bit over the years. Some recommendations include Bartenura Moscato. This sweet and greenish yellow colored white has a simple nose with floral and fruity scents with a full texture and a medium finish. Carmel King David Sacramental is a wine from Israel, Galilee region. The Carmel wineries were established in 1882. Today Carmel is Israel’s leading producer of wines and spirits, maintaining a careful balance between the traditional art of wine making and the use of the latest technology. It is a Kosher Dessert non-VARIETAL red wine Blend. I thought it was good. My wife’s cousin loved it with homemade cannoli. My favorite Kosher wine is Baron Herzog Champagne Brut. This is a sparkler made from wines produced in California and New York. It has been fermented with special Champagne yeast and given extended contact to enhance the complexity of the wine. It has the aromatic notes of the New York fruit and the lighter, more elegant tones contributed by the fruit from California.
No matter how you celebrate the upcoming holiday season remember it is a blessing given to us all to enjoy our dear family and our dear friends. As years pass it becomes more and more evident that we only have a finite opportunity to so. Please use this opportunity to forgive and forget and use this time to use great food and great wines to bind everyone together and enjoy. I think you will be glad you did. Enjoy!
By Ray Spaziani
Ray Spaziani is the Chapter Director of the New Haven Chapter of the American Wine Society. He teaches wine appreciation classes at Gateway Community College ,The Milford Board of Ed and Moltose Wine and Beer Merchants and is a member of the International Tasting Panel of Amenti Del Vino and Wine Maker Magazine. He is an award winning home wine maker and a Certified Wine educator. Email Ray with your wine questions and wine events at Ray.Spaziani@gmail.com.