Surprising Wine Pairings for Easter

Traditional choices like Merlot and Chardonnay are great, but why not be daring with edgier options like Albano or Pink Port with tonic?

Easter is a time of devout religious observances, but it also has its more secular side as a holiday that celebrates the onset of spring, a time when family and friends gather for fun, food, and good wine.

You can’t go wrong with traditional pairings that feature classic Merlots and Chardonnays, but perhaps this year you want to start your own traditions with wines that are edgier, even off-the-wall. Here are some food-wine pairings that are as safe or as daring as you want to be.


The Dish: Baked Ham

Traditional pairing: The sweetness of the ham and its lighter red-meat flavors make it ideal for Cabernet Franc-based rosés from the Loire Valley and lighter Pinot Noirs.
Edgier pairing: Try the fruitier Merlot-based rosés from eastern Long Island and the crisper Pinot Neros from Alto Adige.
More off-the-wall: Croft’s Pink Port over ice, mixed equally with crisp tonic or soda water.


The Dish: Lamb Chops

Traditional pairing: Merlot-based wines from affordable producers in St-Emilion such as Château Corbin
Edgier pairing: If you want to stay with Merlot but try a different venue, opt for one from Mercer in eastern Washington or one from Gimblett Gravels (Craggy Range’s “Sophia” blend) in New Zealand.
More off-the-wall: A Sangiovese-based Rosso di Montalcino.


The Dish: Egg Creations (like soufflés and omelettes)

Traditional pairing: A good brut Champagne, or a sparkling wine from Schramsberg in northern California. 
Edgier pairing: A Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma County, which will have fullness at middle body and crispness in the finish.
More off-the-wall: A Chenin Blanc from South Africa, particularly if the egg is combined with cheese.  If there’s meat involved, try a lighter red, such as an everyday Valpolicella.


The Dish: Magiritsa (a traditional Greek fast-breaking lamb soup)

Traditional pairing: A native white Assyrtiko from Santorini island or a white blend from Domaine Gerovassiliou on the Macedonian mainland.
Edgier pairing: A fuller Soave from one of the hillside vineyards, such as Inama. 
More off-the-wall: A crisp but full-flavored fino Sherry from Spain.

The Dish: Lighter-meat Ocean Fish or Freshwater Trout

Traditional pairing:  A classic Chablis such as those from Joseph Drouhin
Edgier pairing: Try an Albano from Emilia-Romagna, a wine just waiting to be discovered. 
More off-the-wall: East Coasters should search their own backyards for aromatic, but crisp white blends coming from wineries such as Pennsylvania’s Va La Vineyards or Long Island’s Channing Daughters.


The Dish: Vegetarian Casseroles and Pasta Salads

Traditional pairing: A full-flavored, lightly oaky California Chardonnay, perhaps a Carneros selection from Frank Family Vineyards or Bouchaine
Edgier pairing: Pick one of the delicious Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand’s Martinborough (not Marlborough) region, perhaps Palliser Estate or Ata Rangi
More off-the-wall: For drinkers who are sippers, a more alcoholic but still very smooth sake, such as the Watari Bune Junmai Ginjo.


The Dish: Arroz con Pollo

Traditional pairing: A white Rioja from the nutty-tasting Vidura grape.  
Edgier pairing: Go farther west to try an Albariño from Rias Baixas (you can buy it by the bottle, not just the glass!) 
More off-the-wall: Dry Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc from Clarksburg, the white equivalent of a Cabernet Franc.


The Dish: Flame-grilled Red Meats

Traditional pairing: What else but a gaucho-hearty Malbec from Mendoza?  
Edgier pairing: A Paso Robles Syrah, such as one from Austin Hope or L’Aventure
More off-the-wall: A red blend from Portugal’s Alentejo region from a good producer, like Esporão.


In the end, wine and food pairing is a matter of personal preferences, so try your wines in advance before you put them on the table.

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