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Wines for Easter

What wines pair best with ham?

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Baked ham with white wine
Annabelle Breakey/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Easter Sunday, a time to reflect and celebrate the Lord's resurrection, and a time to gather with family and friends to share a special meal together. Traditional Easter menus tend to center around either a roasted ham or a leg of lamb, begging the question, "Which wine goes best with what?" We'll start with the ham.

Wines for Ham

Ham is often prepared with glazes or toppings that are sweet and can balance the inherent saltiness of the actual meat. Well paired wines can accomplish the same objective. For ham, the best "tried and true" companion wines are, hands-down - a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer. Both wines tend to offer fresh, flavorful taste profiles with enough sweet fruit to balance the salt in the ham and enough acidity to support the combination without compromising the flavor in either the ham or the wine. There are plenty of easy to find Rieslings, that offer good value and high quality - perfect for experimenting with this Easter. Consider an Alsatian or German Riesling for their mineral-laden Old World character or a bright Washington state Riesling from either Hogue Cellars or Chateau Ste. Michelle. If you are opting for a spicy Gewürztraminer, you may consider successful vintners such as Columbia-Crest, Trimbach, or Domaine Schlumberger. Both Riesling and Gewurztraminer are crowd-pleasing white wine favorites that have the versatility to handle a wide variety of palates, while accomodating plenty of preparation options for ham. A lightly oaked Chardonnay would also handle ham well, if you are partial to this particular white wine.

If red wine is your first choice, then a Zinfandel is a perfect pick, as the higher alcohol content and fruit forward approach can handle the ham's sweeter side.

Wines for Lamb

As for lamb, whether rack of lamb, leg of lamb or roast of lamb the the strategy is to stick with your well grounded red wines - a red Burgundy, a northern Rhone red, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot or a Tempranillo or Shiraz. You are shooting for red wines with decent tannin structure, good fruit and a finish that can endure as long as the lamb itself. The goal is to have a wine with enough fruit and acidity to handle the robust flavors of the lamb, but not overpower it in the process.

Wines from Israel

If you are interested in opting for a more authentic Easter wine selection, then consider a wine from Israel. Israel has come onto the international wine scene with some serious wines. With over 140 wineries, between estates and smaller boutique wineries, there are plenty of wines to choose from. Look for Yarden, Golan Heights and Galil Mountain just to name a few well-distributed wines from Israel.

So, there you have it - several wine favorites that are safe bets for Easter dinner menus centered around ham or lamb - sure to thrill even your most finicky dinner guests.

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