Updated: Apr 2, 2021
an exploration of three Easter centerpieces and the wines to pair alongside.
With Easter approaching, the hares are out at Les Vins Lelièvre in Lucey, France.
The Pascal feast is upon us, and while for many Easter doesn’t have the immovable culinary traditions of Thanksgiving, there are still dishes like lamb and ham that make appearances more often during this Sunday than others.
Let’s look at three classic Easter centerpieces, and explore a wine for each that we feel makes it feel like Spring has sprung!
While some of us enjoy the rich, robust, and pastoral flavors of lamb year-round, it is an Easter specialty in many houses across the country. Lamb is often grass-finished, which lends to its unique, sometimes game-like flavors. The extra dimension to lamb’s natural flavors makes it an especially fun pairing with super expressive red wines that would overwhelm more delicate proteins. While a host of different wines from southern France, Italy, or Spain would do the trick, we especially enjoy wines hailing from the deep South of France, and blessed with the characteristic garrigue aromas found in that area. Oh, what is garrigue? Garrigue is a French term for the wild hillside vegetation of the Mediterranean Coast. Instead of describing a single aroma in a wine, “garrigue” refers to a mix of lavender, juniper, thyme, rosemary and sage. I’m sure you’re noticing that all those flavors are classic seasonings for lamb, so it makes perfect sense that red wines such as Le Petit Clos Maïa Rouge, from the Languedoc, match so effortlessly with the same meat. Keep your lamb preparation simple, incorporating some of these classic herbs, and really let the marriage of all these flavors shine through.
While technically any four-legged livestock can be the source of ham, we are of course referring to the cured hind leg of the noble pig. Outside of being one the most perfect foods in the world (your author really, really likes ham), ham also offers you great flexibility when pairing wine. The 2021 rosés hitting the market recently offer some fine options, and there are indeed richer, more viscous whites that fit the bill as well. But we’re reaching for Colterenzio St. Magdalener this year, and we think you’d like it too. Crafted mainly from Schiava, this is a red that plays nice with the warmer days that have begun creeping in, as it takes very well to a slight chill (though that is entirely optional and up to you). It likewise agrees readily with the flavors of sharper cheddar cheese, making it a happy match with the mac-n-cheese that we can’t imagine would be left off any respectable Easter spread. It’s light, bright, high-toned flavors of mixed red berries and perfectly tart accents of Rainier cherry will keep your palate refreshed, and elevate the mild sweetness and balanced saltiness of any great ham. Go ahead and stock up on this one, because it’s going to be a great complement to those breezy Spring nights on the front porch as well.
Don’t tell the kids, but bunnies aren’t just for the conveyance of candy during this season. They are likewise one of the more under-appreciated main courses this side of the briar patch. Rabbit is one of the mildest of all game meats, and is in great abundance during the late winter and early spring. Just about any wooded area of our great state offers the chance to harvest a freezer-full of these delicious treats, so see if any of your sportsman friends and family have one or two to spare. Slow roast it in the oven with some carrots and onions, and then pair it with Passetoutgrains. A blend of pinot noir and gamay, Passetoutgrains (Burgubdy's best kept secret) is perfect with milder game (quail, dove, even squirrel), but it really shines with rabbit. Pinot is classically a lighter red, but the great ones still offer a little earthiness--forest floor, mushroom, wet leaves, or other clean aromas to accentuate the abundant fruit. Rabbit, likewise, offers mostly mild flavors, but with the slightest note of earthy game. There is hardly a more intuitive pairing in the world food and wine, and we hope you get to experience it soon!
Photo from McCarus Beverage Co.
Nothing says Spring quite like the wines from Domaine Lelièvre—and this may be the perfect bottle to get your celebrations started! The Lelièvre domaine was founded in the town of Lucy in the Côtes de Toul in 1971 after Jean Lelièvre decided to vinify and bottle the family’s grapes instead of selling them to neighboring winemakers. The family farms Auxerrois, Gamay, and Pinot Noir, producing three still wines and one sparkling wine. The domaine is now operated by brothers, Vincent and David Lelièvre who’s passion for the Côtes de Toul appellation and their family’s legacy is irrefutable. This is sparkling Gamay Noir, with bright red raspberry fruit, high acid, and a dry, herbal finish. Crushably tasty, and an extreme value for biodynamic pink fizz. Not to mention the adorable bunny package.
LAMB + Le Petit Clos Maïa Rouge | $23
Grenache Noir 80% along with very old grape varieties 20% (cinsault œillade, terret bouret, aramon..)
Thanks to the combination of the vineyard’s elevation, the limestone bedrock, and the sufficient water in the relatively hot Languedoc climate along with Géraldine’s immaculate farming, her wines are brilliantly fresh, elegant, and precise. Quality is high; quantities are limited. In 2014, the Revue du Vin de France commented “(Clos Maïa) seeks to restore the natural balance of the vines to produce wines of precision and remarkable control after only three years of work. We fell in love with this unique and consistent production emblematic of the new wave of Languedoc.”
HAM + Colterenzio Schiava “St. Magdalener” | $19
95% Schiava (Vernatsch), 5% Lagrein
Colterenzio is one of the newest wineries in South Tyrol, composed of over 300 families working together. This is a new-generation cooperative that smashes preconceptions, proving that a humble “coop” can consistently deliver some of the most transparent, expressive wines in the top flight region of Alto Adige.Brilliant translucent ruby red in color with a fruity bouquet reminiscent of black cherry and violets expanding to a medium-bodied palate of red summer fruits; a succulent wine with mild acidity, medium length, and a soft and smooth finish.
Serve slightly chilled.
25% Pinot Noir and 75% Gamay
Why choose between Gamay and Pinot Noir when you can have both? This organic Passetoutgrains (one of Burgundy’s best kept secrets) oozes with easy-drinking flavors of strawberry, violets, moist earth, and a touch of pepper. The Passetoutgrain is 2/3 Gamay from Gilly-les-Citeaux and 1/3 Pinot Noir from the village of Chambolle-Musigny. It is aged mostly in tank, but some is also kept in barrel. Serve this bright and easy-drinking bottle slightly chilled!