Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
We all have special memories of Easter. For me, it’s running through the playground on a balmy day in Houston, hunting for brightly colored eggs, all the giddy happiness of childhood fizzing through my seven-year-old brain. For my brother, oddly enough, it was having nightmares about the Easter Bunny, who appeared in his dreams as a seven-foot rabbit with huge fangs.
Such, such were the joys. (He turned out fine, in case you’re curious.) Regardless, certain foods are distinctly associated with this holiday, whether for secular or religious reasons, and so here are a few quick suggestions of what wines might best accompany them.
Eggs in general are an Easter tradition - a symbol of new life, as well as a food traditionally banned during Lent, then eaten during an Easter feast. There are more options than colored hard-boiled eggs, though. Brodetto pasquale, a Roman Easter soup, is a delicious beef-lamb broth brightened by marjoram and lemon and thickened with egg. It isn’t that heavy and it comes at the start of the meal, so a crisp white is an ideal choice. Frascati, a staple of casual Roman trattorias, would be ideal. The 2010 Fontana Candida ($9) is easy-drinking and pleasant; the same winery’s 2009 Luna Mater bottling ($22) is a standout.
Whether it comes from the notion that hams once put away to cure in the fall were ready by spring or from a simple “Well, ham sure tasted good at Christmas, let’s have one at Easter, too” inspiration, there’s no question that Easter is good times for ham salesmen. The key with ham and wine is salt - salt tends to intensify tannins, so if you want red, go for a lighter wine. Pinot Noir is a good choice, like the lively 2010 Pinot Project Pinot Noir ($14) or the berry-scented 2009 A to Z ($19), as is a lighter Italian red, such as the cherry-inflected 2009 Col D’Orcia Rosso di Montalcino ($24).
There are a number of cultural and religious reasons why lamb is a classic Easter dish, and there’s a basic culinary reason, too, which is that roast lamb tastes great. (I fully admit to bias - I love lamb.) Personally, I’m a fan of marinating a butterflied leg in Greek yogurt, sliced garlic and chopped rosemary and then slapping it on the grill, but no matter how it’s prepared, lamb loves red wine. It particularly loves Syrah - the roasted meat and pepper notes of the wine taste great with lamb’s gamey intensity. Look for the ripe 2008 Andrew Murray Tous les Jours ($16) from California, the smoky 2009 Yalumba Y Series Shiraz ($13) from Australia (Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape) or the peppery 2009 Delas Freres Côtes du Rhône Les Esprit ($15), which adds a bit of Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre to its blend.
Peeps with wine? Come on. Everyone knows that Peeps go best with beer.
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