Whether you are preparing a seder plate or dyeing eggs, a great wine can really elevate your holiday meal this week. It can also soothe the cook and make difficult relatives more tolerable. Here are some ideas for your feast.
I like a nice sparkling wine to go with all the rich egg and cheese dishes. Somehow the bubbles and higher acidity really come through the creamy stratas and casseroles and bring out some of the other flavors. My favorites are the roses and blanc de noirs. A few to look for are:
$ Cristalino Brut Cava – Spain
$$ Piper Sonoma Blanc de Noir NV – California, Gruet Blanc de Noir NV – New Mexico
$$$$ Laurent Perrier Brut Rose NV, Billecart Salmon Brut Rose NV
Or create your own Bubbly Bar of sparkling wines and juices. Visit my Brunch Bubbly Bar post from the December holidays for ideas.
For those of you serving up the big ham, I think a lovely white from the village of Vouvray in the Loire Valley of France is in order. Hams are most often glazed in something sweet – honey, fruit, syrup etc – and need a slightly sweet wine to echo those flavors and counteract the strong salty flavors of the meat.
I’m sipping the Champalou Vouvray 2005 today on The Steve Cochran Show on WGN radio. Its a nice balance of fruitiness and a touch of sweetness without being cloying. Honestly, even if you typically hate sweet wines, try this with a ham. You might find you like it. Not only that, these are terrific wines for newbie or infrequent wine drinkers. Very friendly to lots of tastes.
Easter and Passover Lamb
Those of you serving lamb are probably better served by a robust red from the Rhone Valley of France. Lamb has a stronger gamey flavor that is well served by wines with an equally smokey and earthy note. I particularly like the wines from this area that are made primarily from the Syrah grape, but the blends of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignane and the like can be nice matches too. If you want a nice big French Syrah, stick to the wines from the villages of the Northern Rhone valley like St. Joseph and Hermitage. The wines from the Crozes-Hermitage are not as massive in body, but are significantly less expensive than the $80-$100 price tag their big brother carries.
If you are on a tighter budget, look to the southern Rhone area where you can find some wonderful bargains. Most of these wines are blends based on Grenache, but still have the gamey note you’re looking for. A simple Cotes du Rhone rouge (just a basic red wine from the greater Rhone Valley area) will suit many lamb dishes and cost you $10 or less.
I would caution against the flashy Australian Shiraz in this instance. While the wines are big, bold, and fun – they may clobber delicate flavors and complex dishes you’ve spent such care in preparing. Leave those for after dinner with some aged cheeses.
For those of you wishing to keep Kosher for the holiday, there are lots more options than there used to be. While the traditional Mogan David and Manischewitz are indeed Kosher, most bottlings are NOT Kosher for Passover. Make sure you snag a bottle with the specific Kosher for Passover label. If sticky sweet wine isn’t your thing; no worries. Lots of advancement in kosher winemaking has transpired in recent years, offering Jewish folks a bevy of kosher wines that taste…well, like wine.
If your seder is meat and/or lamb focused, I like the kosher wines from Europe and Israel best. Try the kosher version of Chateau Giscours. This is a well respected Bordeaux house in the Margaux region and their kosher bottling is quite tasty. Dairy based main courses need a tangy white like Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Some real deal Champagne houses have kosher cuvees that are worth seeking out, particularly Laurent Perrier and Nicolas Feuillatte.
If you are a non-Jewish guest at a Passover seder, a bottle of Kosher wine is a traditional and thoughtful gift. Best to play it safe though and bring a Kosher wine labeled mevushal. This certification ensures that the wine has been pasturized and is a-ok to be handled and served by non-Jewish folk.
To all who celebrate with family and friends this week: L’Chaim and may peace be with you.