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Easter dinner rules: Wine and food pairings for the non-turkey holiday dinner



Easter arrives Sunday and if, like many families, you use the occasion to gather the clan in a social setting the focus is most likely to be food and wine. With the two big turkey holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) behind us the question is, will it be ham, lamb, pork or fish and which wines should you be thinking about pairing with your choice?

This month we explore some of the classic wine and food matches of Easter and provide just a touch of practical theory behind the pairing. I should confess I firmly believe in the phrase, there are no rules anymore when it comes to pairing food and wine, but as Mom always asked, “If your friends jump off the top of a mountain would you do it, too?”

I’m sure she was referring to those people who drink shiraz with halibut and cabernet with sushi because someone said drinking red wine is good for you. There may not be any wine pairing rules in the new millennium, but common sense and years of experience have taught me to believe some wines react better with certain foods than others. The trick is to know which.

One of Easter’s problematic matches is that handsomely glazed ham awash in sugar (pineapple) and salt. Both ingredients tend to bring out the bitterness and tannins in wine. The pairing is not insurmountable as long as you think about fruity, lighter structure reds with supple tannins. In this case the tempranillo or garnacha grape from Spain should do the job. For white wines, a non-wooded or lightly wooded pinot grigio (or gris) would be equally acceptable.

My red pairing is Telmo Rodriguez Viña Ciento Cinco 105 2006 $18 from Cigales, Spain. The entry is round and supple; the fruit is a mix of black cherry, fresh plum, tobacco, orange and licorice flavours. It should easily complement the ham. My white suggestion is local: the Hillside Estate Pinot Gris Reserve Series 2006 $18 from the Okanagan Valley. Look for the floral, citrus, honey, ginger, mineral, buttery nose to perfectly mesh with the ham. The flavours of pear, mineral, quince, lemon rind, butter and ginger are equally up to salt and sugar.

Lamb is more of a slam dunk pairing for syrah or shiraz. A roasted leg of lamb allows for plenty of manoeuvring room with red wine but the classic match is syrah/shiraz. Plenty of minty, lamb flavours call for an equally intense red to tame them and you get that with shiraz/syrah. From Chile you should consider Emiliana Orgánico Adobe Syrah 2005 $15 from the Valle del Colchagua. This is a round, dry, elegant red with peppery, smoky, chocolate, vanilla, bay leaf flavours and it’s 100 per cent organic. From South Africa try the Glen Carlou Syrah 2005 $30 from the Paarl, Coastal Region. The GC is very rich and ripe with plummy fruit mixed with black licorice, tobacco, smoky, savoury notes. Surely this will melt every mouthful of lamb.

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