This year (like most, but not all, years), Easter and Passover happily happen on the same weekend. To help you celebrate well, we decided to put together a quick pairing “cheat sheet” for each. We asked two of our Catadores to help with this. Rachel Schneidmill chipped in with her suggestions for Seder dinner, while Cliff Lewis talks about his family’s meal, plus a few extra common Easter dishes.
Pairing Wines with Passover Seder - Rachel
There are a LOT of flavors happening at Passover Seder, and even more challenging is that they are mostly flavors we are not used to eating in our typical diets. Because of this, it can be difficult to pick the right wine to accompany your Seder meal. Also, please note that my family and I don't drink only kosher wines at Seder. If you do, please note that after each section I've included which of the three kosher wines we have will work.
So, I went through the standard Passover fare and choose what I think would be awesome pairings for these special dishes. And since you have 4 glasses of wine to work with, you can try all of these (and more)!
Matzoh Ball Soup - Unless you have a cold and live near your Mom, there’s no other time in the year you’ll eat this soup. This dinner opener pairs well with a dry crisp white like a cool climate Sauvignon Blanc. Check out one we have called “Laberinto" from Chile. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, a Txakoli from northern Spain works great, too. (Kosher option: Terra Vega Chardonnay 2017)
Gefilte Fish - Is there any more polarizing food than Gefilte? You’ve either loved it since you were young or gag just thinking about it. For the former, try a mineral driven white to compliment the mysterious metallic taste you often get with this dish. If pairing with heaps of spicy horseradish, a buttery Chard could help cut that bite. Try Tami Grillo from Italy or Aconcagua Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2016 from Chile. (Kosher option: Terra Vega Chardonnay 2017, or Cantina San Gabriele Pinot Noir)
Charoset - This delightful combination of walnuts, apples, honey, cinnamon & wine is a crowd pleaser that tastes delicious with matzoh or paired with the horseradish for a spicy/sweet combo. Lots of flavors happening here, but a white with tropical tones will be a nice pairing for both the sweet and hot. Grab a bottle of cream sherry for this. I promise, a good bottle of this is heavenly, and won’t break the bank. (We don't have any dessert kosher options, but the Chardonnay will work here, too!)
Brisket - Let’s start by just saying that every family’s brisket is THE best brisket. I personally only ever find myself eating brisket with Texan BBQ or Passover Seder. Because of that, I prefer this hearty meat in sweet chili sauce with lots of sweet onions. Bring on the Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec. Or better yet, bring on both in the Cuvelier Los Andes Malbec, cab sauv, petite verdot, and syrah blend. It complements the sweetness with firm tannins to balance the fat of the meat. For a Kosher option we have (Terra Vega Carmenere, Chile, 2017)
Dessert - The Seder is not necessarily known for desserts. However, it could be if you have a slammin’ wine to go with them! These are my two favorite dishes and the ones I’m baking: chocolate covered toffee matzoh brittle and coconut macaroons. Pair either with a sweet red vermouth, or go big with our amazing Paso Robles Zinfandel by Rabbel. (Again, no sweet kosher option. Sorry!)
Pairing Wines with Easter Lunch (or Dinner) - Cliff
Growing up, we’d all trek over to my grandparents house for an Easter egg hunt (complete with a man-sized Easter Bunny that I learned in adolescence was actually an older cousin in a rabbit suit). After the hunt, the feast would begin. We almost always centered the meal around ham, with a few forays into lamb to change it up. Other dishes included green bean casserole, wild mushrooms in wild rice (my grandparents loved to forage), sauteed red cabbage, and invariably some concoction a rarely seen relative would test on the group. Happily, few of these were disasters, and some were downright amazing.
Before I get into the pairings, let me just drop a suggestion for how to take Easter to the next level: an adult egg hunt. Since all the kids have passed the legal drinking threshold, we’ve converted the egg hunt to a booze hunt. You can find large plastic eggs that will hold small bottles of wine, beer cans, airplane liquor bottles, the works. Hide them in the morning, and unleash the crowd after cocktail hour, but before dinner.
Pre-meal cheese, veggies and fruit - Provided you stick to light fare here, no matter what you serve at this stage will work with brut sparkling wine, or an off-dry riesling.
Ham - How you prepare the ham matters as much as the meat itself. If you choose to go with the classic honey glaze, steer clear of super dry wines. A new world pinot noir will do the trick. We have one from Patagonia, Argentina called Saurus Select that’s lush enough to stand up to the glaze, with a touch of acid to freshen everything up.
If you skip the glaze (as we usually do), then you can go drier with the wine. In this case, an old world/cool climate pinot noir will match the texture of the ham beautifully. A classic Bourgogne Rouge will do the trick. We also have a Chilean Pinot Noir called Clos des Fous from 2013 that will blow you away.
If you want to get really precise, and adventurous, grab a bottle of Amontillado Sherry. Not everyone will like it, so make sure to have other options. But wow, does it work!
Lamb - We’ve dabbled in the world of lamb for Easter a couple times. Though it turned out amazing, certain traditionalist factions within the family who prefer ham usually get their way.
Lamb has a distinct mineral tone. Therefore, wines that will match that are what you want. For a more metallic, almost iron tone, go with an aged Rioja Reserva. Or, sticking to Spain, grab a Priorat red blend. Each of these also has a nice herbal tone that will go nicely with the rosemary you should include in the roast.
Side dishes: Mashed potatoes, green bean cassorole, etc - Since Easter is generally served either family style or buffet style, pairing a wine with each dish is both unrealistic and expensive. Instead, pair to the main dish, and then have an additional wine on hand that will work with just about anything. Personally, I find that Chilean carmenere, being so savory, herbal and a touch spicy, is amazingly versatile - unless you’re serving flounder or something. In which case, do you, but you’re beyond the scope of this post.
Dessert - No matter what the occasion, my family always finds a way to get an apple pie and a pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream. Whatever you serve, a tawny port will work with nearly anything. If you want something a bit fresher and less sweet, we have a tasty late-harvest torrontés called “Tardío” from Santa Julia that everyone will love!
That's all we have for ya! We hope this helps you make some crucial decisions tonight and throughout the weekend. Enjoy yourselves!