The Best Easter Wines for Ham, Lamb and Beyond
Easter is upon us. Chances are your “big picture” entertaining ideas are in place. Now, it’s time to finalize the details, from recipes and place settings to egg coloring and your (pastel-colored?) springtime attire. Then, there are the Easter wine pairings.
Wondering what wines work with Easter lamb? Or, are you choosing wines for Easter ham? Are you serving Easter lunch or Easter dinner? Whatever the scenario, a team of Kendall-Jackson contributors has collaborated to have you ready in short order with this look at the best Easter wines.
An important focus of any Easter meal is bringing together family and friends. Other than that we know the story of the Last Supper included wine – and that the wine was red – there are no traditional Easter wines. So, as it is a major holiday, select some of your favorite wines (whether based on grape variety or region) or wines that have a significant meaning to you.
The number of merrymakers and your wallet’s padding are worthy of consideration, too. If your gathering will be more intimate or if your budget allows, trade up! Grand Reserve and Jackson Estate wines offer greater flavor intensity. If all your thirsty cousins have RSVP-ed to hover over the buffet and a few neighbors plan pop in, too, the K-J AVANT collection or the Vintner’s Reserve line may better suit your hosting needs.
You also might consider whether you are serving Easter brunch or Easter dinner. Light to medium body wines tend to be more digestible at lunchtime, while fuller-bodied wines may feel more appropriate at dinner.
With all these elements in mind, let’s set out to find your ideal Easter wine pairings for lamb, ham and dessert.
Wines with Easter Lamb
Whether your lamb will be a rack, a leg, a crown roast, a shoulder or a shank, red wines work best. Here are additional few points on which to drill down further for your perfect Easter lamb pairing.
First is the age of the lamb. Spring lamb’s more delicate flavor marries more easily with lighter reds – or at least reds with softer tannins – while bolder reds work better with the heartier flavor of mature lamb. For spring lamb, try a Pinot Noir or a Merlot. Here are K-J Chef Justin Wangler’s thoughts on spring lamb and the Vintner’s Reserve Merlot.
Second is the cut of lamb. For more marbled or fattier cuts like lamb shoulder or ribs (yep, some folks like to grill even at Easter!), as well as older lamb (mutton), opt for fuller-flavored wines made with the spicy grape Syrah. (Syrah and lamb – or any sort, to be honest – is my personal favorite combo!)
Finally, there is the seasoning to consider. If you’re looking for a more exotically-flavored Easter lunch or dinner lamb that is heavy in spices or peppers, there’s nothing like a densely-flavored Cabernet Sauvignon. Vianney Rodriguez explains how lamb, ancho chiles and the Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon meld seamlessly.
Wait! There’s one more thing: leftovers…of lamb, that is. Vianney suggests the Grand Reserve Merlot with her Shepherd’s Pie. In the unlikely event you have leftover wine, too, rest assured any of the K-J reds would pair well with Vianney’s flavor-packed, Latin-inflected recipe.
Wines with Easter Ham
If you are serving an Easter ham dinner, your rainbow of wine colors expands to include whites and Rosés along with light to mid-weight reds. As with lamb, there are clear cut ways to fine-tune your pairings.
The major pairing consideration is ham’s inherent sweetness, even when it has savory influences from seasonings or cooking techniques. This sweetness warms up to fruit-forward wines of any color. In the red category, this specifically includes wines with gentle tannins that won’t create a sharp contrast to the ham’s sweetness.
After that, what kind of ham will you serve: spiral, bone-in, country or grilled fresh ham? One of these cuts that has been smoked? How about glazed ham?
City hams, which are the most common in the USA and also are referred to as wet-cured hams, are the sweetest and most succulent. This category includes spiral hams, but keep in mind that spiral hams can be smoked. (If yours is smoked, see below.) City hams’ gentle flavor works best with milder whites, such as the K-J AVANT Chardonnay. Unlike most Chardonnays in the market, the K-J AVANT bottling is crafted in stainless steel and neutral oak barrels, so it tastes solely of pure fruits like apple and pears, rather than those fruits sprinkled with flavors of toast and sweet spice. The dry and delicately aromatic Vintner’s Reserve Rosé, composed predominantly of Pinot Noir then Syrah, is another selection that not only matches city hams well, it adds a festive spring pastel color to your table.
If you want to heighten the flavor of your city ham with a glaze, consider wines with a light sweetness like the glaze’s or more pronounced fruit flavors to stand up to the glaze’s punchier zip. For the former, try the Vintner’s Reserve Muscat Canelli from Lake County. This wine’s vibrant acidity has such a cleansing, mouthwatering effect that after the Muscat matches the ham’s sweetness, it refreshes the palate for the next bite. If you prefer a dry wine with more generous fruitiness, the Grand Reserve Sonoma County Rosé is an excellent way to go. It has more Syrah than Pinot Noir (in reverse proportions to the Vintner’s Reserve) as well as a substantial portion of the fruit-heady Grenache. This option couples particularly well with fruit glazes.
The other, fuller-flavored and slightly more savory ham possibilities – bone-in, country and grilled fresh hams – favor elegant, supple reds like the Grand Reserve Pinot Noir. However, smoked hams – also a member of this of this family – work particularly well with full-bodied, oak-aged Chardonnays, like the Jackson Estate Chardonnays.
Ham leftovers? What to do with those dozens of hard-boiled eggs? How about a deviled eggs and ham appetizer? Or, if you’re rather fond of your traditional ham sandwiches, you can serve Molly Madfis’ spicy, horseradish-infused deviled eggs with them. The pleasantly herbal Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc is a good go-to for these options, especially if you’re stacking some arugula or leftover asparagus onto those sandwiches. Sauvignon Blanc’s tangy acidity also blends nicely with vinegar-influenced sandwich fixings like mustard and pickles.
Wines with Easter Dessert
Easter dinner wine pairings don’t stop with the main course. Dessert deserves a pairing, too. In fact, a sweet wine can even substitute for dessert if a guest just can’t muster another bite. The Grand Reserve Late Harvest Riesling, with its spring-like floral tones, is my consummate choice for a “liquid dessert”.
Easter dessert wine pairings also come in more unconventional forms. Molly Yeh likes to serve Vintner’s Reserve Rosé with her Springtime Cupcakes, matching a rose-topped cupcake in not only color but also in name! (Not only does Molly give you a recipe here, she offers handy icing piping tips, too.) And, Molly Madfis of Almost Makes Perfect presents the ultimate wine and dessert pairing by making the Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Gris the dessert itself with her beautiful Winesicles with Edible Flowers.
Finally, however rare this may be, wine can bested by other beverages. If you decide not to serve a sweet wine, you can offer your guests Melissa DiRenzo's preferred “pairing” – which in this case involves only dunking – for her family’s Funfetti Easter Cake: cold milk or hot coffee.
More Than “Just” Setting Your Easter Table or Buffet
Regardless your style, chances are your Easter Table probably wouldn’t be complete without some spring-inspired bulbs and flowers. Unless you have your own garden, however, a large centerpiece can become pricey, even if you self-assemble it. A large centerpiece may also need to be whisked away to make room for large platters and serving dishes. Molly Madfis has creative suggestions to keep your flowers and greenery practical and beautiful, including using inexpensive and near-indestructible air plants at individual place settings.
If Daylight Savings Time has revved up your energy to engage in more than bringing out your finest china (or stocking up on paper plates if your gathering is large, more casual or held outside), here are several fun and budget-friendly ways to channel your inner Martha Stewart. To complement your Easter egg dyeing, stenciling, sponging and other creativity, Melissa DiRenzo suggests tie dyeing napkins with markers! Alternatively, Jo-Anna Rooney shows you how to make napkin rings with tin “ribbon”. In these links you’ll also find party favor ideas from Melissa (seed packets for your green thumbs gathered) and Jo-Anna (chocolate bunny baskets for the sweet tooths).
Throughout your planning and crafting, don’t forget to treat yourself with refreshment! Since your creative energies will be flowing, why not reward it with something a bit edgier, like the Grand Reserve White Meritage – a blend of zesty Sauvignon Blanc and silky Sémillon?
“A Party Without Cake Is Just a Meeting.” - - Julia Child
Julia Child famously said, “A party without cake is just a meeting.” Kendall-Jackson Wines would say the same about wine and Easter. Your family and friends deserve more than a meeting. So, don’t skip the dessert or the wine for your festive Easter party!
For more food and wine pairing tips, visit the Entertaining section of our website.