Pairing wine with food can seem like an overwhelming task but when it comes to a special holiday meal such as Easter, it can be downright intimidating. And if you are having a few guests, you will likely need more than one bottle – which means, if you’re like me, when you have to buy more, you’ll be looking for more affordable wines that don’t sacrifice on the quality. We all want to impress our guests – we just don’t wanna go broke trying to do so! So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the wine choices out there, just use the guide below to find delicious, affordable wines that will beautifully compliment your Easter meal and wow your guests!
A Quick Note About Pairing
A good rule of thumb when pairing wine with food is to try to match flavors and textures. And typically the wine is paired with the main course. So think about what are the dominant flavors of your main dish. Are there more herbs? Is there a glaze? A sauce of some kind? The texture of the main dish will typically determine the style of wine that best pairs with it – bolder red wines with heavier red meats, richer white wines or lighter reds with white meats, etc – while the flavors will determine which type of wine will pair better – like syrah, chardonnay, etc. With that in mind, here are some ideas for pairings that work well together.
Pork & Lamb
In general, pork and lamb dishes work well with bigger red wines like syrah/grenache blends or light fruity reds depending on how you’re serving it. If you’re serving your pork or lamb with herbs as the dominant flavor, choose a red wine from the Southern Rhone region of France. This region is known for a special herb flavor from the soil that shines through in the wines. That combined with the smokiness that the syrah blends from this area are known for would complement the flavors of an herb based pork or lamb dish beautifully.
Most people are familiar with the Chateauneuf-du-Papes of this region but these wines can be quite pricey. If you look for a wine from one of the lesser known villages like Ventoux or Gigondas, you should be able to find something for $20 or under. (My personal recommendation: 2019 Domaine de Fenouillet Ventoux Rouge for $17.50)
If you are serving your dish with sweeter flavors like pork with baked apples or lamb with a balsamic reduction, choose a light fruity red. The fruity flavors of the wine will complement the sweet component of the meat dish. A California zinfandel that is not over the top jammy would be a good choice but these wines get pricey fast. If you’re looking for a wine find, a Portuguese red wine would be a great buy here because port producers by law are not allowed to use all their grapes to make port wine (the fortified wine Portugal is famous for). So the leftover grapes from some of the best vines in the area are used to make still red wines, which are sold at very low prices, usually under $15. Check your local wine shop. This is a great insider tip for getting wine from some of the best vineyards in Portugal at affordable prices. (My personal recommendation: 2018 Silk & Spice Red Blend for $12.95)
Ham pairs well with lighter reds and believe it or not fruity rosés. If you are serving your ham plain, try a light fruit driven rosé. It’s a great way to serve a quality wine without spending a lot of money. The fruitiness of the wine will complement the ham while the lightness of the rosé complements the simplicity of the dish. Many rosés are typically available around $10-$15 and it’s not something a lot of people think to serve even though this pairing works beautifully. Try this and your table will really impress! (My personal recommendation: 2018 Planeta Rose for $9.50)
If you are serving your ham with a glaze, the classic zinfandel or fruity pinot noir pairing would work well but again, good examples tend to be costly. The key is to find something fruity to complement the sweetness of the glaze but that is also light to match the lighter texture of ham. A good wine find would be a cru Beaujolais. Red wines from Beaujolais have a bad reputation as those familiar with the Nouveaux that come out every Thanksgiving think of these wines as simple, fruity, and uninteresting. But not all Beaujolais is Nouveau. There are 10 villages or ‘crus’ of Beaujolais. And wines from these crus offer high end quality at every day prices. Typically cru Beaujolais are available around $20 and offer bright fruity flavors with beautiful acidity and just enough tannins to support pairing with meat. A great wine to pair with glazed ham that will surprise your guests.
Quiches & Tartes
A delicious quiche or tarte is a great idea for an Easter brunch that should not be left off the list of meal considerations. A California Chardonnay would pair really well because there are no odd ball flavors, just beautiful fruit flavors that would complement the richness of the quiche and tarte dishes really well. California chardonnays can get expensive very fast but if you look for wines from less in demand areas of California (ie. not Napa or Sonoma), you could find some great deals.
There are two ways you could go when picking a chardonnay for this type of dish. You could go all in with the richness profile and choose a rich buttery chardonnay. The richness of the dish and the richness of the wine would reflect each other and work really well. (My recommendation: 2017 Chamisal Chardonnay from Monterey for $16.50) Or you could choose a leaner fruity chardonnay with bright acidity that would cut the richness of the dish. Acid tends to cut richness so this is a great way to go if you want to lighten up the meal. (My recommendation: 2018 J Wilkes Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley for $19.95)
This article appeared in the March/April 2021 Issue of E.P.I.C. North County Magazine. Check it out!