Thursday, April 9, 2015

Wines for Easter

By Liza B. Zimmerman

I have always lobbied for lamb at Easter but this year I got salmon. So I am hoping that for Orthodox Easter this coming weekend I might finally see a lam chop or two. Octopus and rabbit are also great dishes for the occasion. No matter what you eat, you should have fun with the wine pairings for the festivity and multi-course meal.

Italians generally begin any celebration with bubbles, how can you blame them? Prosecco is divine, Cava more affordable and Lambrusco or even sparkling Shiraz--if you like slightly sweet wines--are also perfect in cooler weather. Here's a field guide for what to serve with almost any Easter or Passover dinner.

Start Fresh and Light
If your guests aren't all head over heels for sparkling wines, a little Lillet or Martini Bianco on the rocks is a great way to welcome them. Artisanal and classic Vermouths, such as the classic Italian Punt e Mes, abound, and  are also superb simply served on the rocks. Or you can make a simple sparkling wine-based cocktail, such as a French 75 (the recipe is below). You can also top off a little Vermouth or Campari with a touch of bubbles to give it some evervescence.

For vegetable sides and lighter meats--pork, chicken or rabbit--you might want to serve some delicate, aromatic whites. French Sancerre, Spanish Albariño or white Rhône blends from anywhere from Washington to California and France will fit the bill. A little acidity and a touch of minerality will allow these wines to stand up to assertive vegetables: a note to artichokes and asparagus we love you but you are hard on the wine pairings!

Move to Bigger Wines
A slightly more tannic red will generally rise to the occasion of the second course. You may want to stay light-bodied and acidic with your wine choices. Less-heavy meats like pork, rabbit and chicken can go beautifully with Loire reds, Beaujolais Crus and far Northern Italian choices. Chinon, in my book, goes with almost anything and Jean-Maurice Raffault "Les Galluches" is a great bottle.

If you are going with lamb or steak, particularly if you are cooking it a bit rare you may want to go with something a bit more structured and tannic. Douro Valley reds are always up to the task, rowdy Piedmontese like Barolo and Barbaresco rarely fail and California Cabernet Sauvignons and even lower-alcohol Zinfandels can be great matches. Esporão is a great producer of both whites and reds from Portugal.

Smoky Madirans and  Cahors from Southern France can work with herb- and wine-rich sauces. The George Vigorous "Gouleyant" Cahors is a great wine for lamb and a super value. Earthy Pinot Noirs from Oregon and the California Coast could also be great matches for lighter preparations of meat dishes.

The bottom line is to have fun. Uncork a couple of bottles you have always wanted to try. Give everyone a glass or two (and put that dump bucket on the table). Reserve judgment and toast to everything joyful that comes to mind.

French 75
1 1/2 ounces of your favorite gin
3/4 ounces fresh lemon juice and a lemon peel
1/2 ounce simple syrup
ice to chill a glass
2 ounces dry sparkling wine--such as Champagne, Cava or Prosecco--chilled

In cocktail shaker, combine gin, lemon juice and the simple syrup. Add ice and shake vigorously for 25 seconds. Strain into a chilled flute and top with sparkling wine.

Curl a lemon peel and garnish drink with a twist.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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