Best wine for Easter – ideas on what to serve

Wine for Easter

In the northern hemisphere, Easter comes at the beginning of spring, and this is a time of year when we tend to look for lighter food and wine options that bring more herbal and fruity notes to the table. An Easter meal often features vegetable dishes with fresh green peas, asparagus and other leafy greens like spinach and Tuscan kale, alongside meat, fish and sweet breads with egg and dried fruit.

Whether you’re serving a honey baked ham for your main, a grilled salmon dish or roasted lamb, our general advice is to pair a red wine that is light to medium in body and has good acidity like a Pinot Noir, a Nebbiolo-based Barolo or Barbaresco, or a Beaujolais Cru. For whites, your options range more widely. You might want a full-bodied, oak aged Chardonnay, or a more mineral driven and dry white wine from northern Italy. Rosé, Champagne and sparkling wines like Prosecco are great ideas too, especially if you’re going out for an Easter brunch.

From standard choices to more unusual wine options that will get your guests talking, have a look at these ideas for the best wines to serve this Easter.

Green Easter bunny decoration for table and ideas on wines to serve
Easter flowers daffodils ready for a spring meal ideas on which food and wine to serve
Easter lamb dish that can be paired with a French red wine or a Nebbiolo based red
Easter salmon appetizer which can be paired with Pinot Noir or Champagne

Easter wine food pairing suggestions

If you’re having ham

Ham can have salty, smokey and honey flavors, but still be quite delicate. This means you need to pair it with a red wine that’s not overly full-bodied or tannic, as you risk overpowering the flavors in the meat. Try a Pinot Noir which will have upfront fruit notes but be a lighter style wine than say a Cabernet. Another pairing idea for ham is a Mt. Etna Rosso, grown on the sides of Sicily’s famous active volcano.

For whites that pair with ham, Italian wines work nicely. Arneis is from the Piedmont region and has good acidity and flavors of pear, melon and stone-fruits. For something more unusual, go with a wine from Campania. Greco di Tufo or Falanghina will both be made with native Italian grape varieties and are commonly served with dry aged ham. You can also open a Vermentino from Sardinia, a Friulano from Friuli, or pair your ham dish with an Albariño from Spain or a medium dry Riesling from Germany or Alsace. Let the flavors in the recipe be your guide, and if you decide to serve a German Riesling, look for “Kabinett” on the label.

Pinot Noir is a red wine for Easter that will pair best with ham and salmon

Salmon for Easter dinner

Salmon is a fuller-flavored and oilier fish that you can drink both red and white with. As with ham, Pinot Noir is always a good idea for a salmon as it’s a wine with great acidity that won’t overpower your food. You can get a more fruit-driven Pinot Noir from California, a wine from Burgundy that has more pronounced terroir, or a wine from the Willamette Valley in Oregon which will be a combination of the two styles. A Cru Beaujolais is another excellent Easter wine option. Try a Fleurie with its floral and red fruit notes or explore different Cru Beaujolais and choose two to compare. You can learn more about the ten Cru Beaujolais and what each village is known for in this article.

For whites, a Bordeaux Blanc from Graves is a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc that will have some barrel aging and make a great wine food pairing for salmon. Additional options include a “Trocken” dry-style Riesling from Germany, or a Riesling from Australia.

Don’t forget about rosé

Rosé is a great choice for ham as well as salmon as it’s not as full-bodied as a red wine but gives you more taste and texture than a white and typically has good acidity and freshness. For something you haven’t tried before, head to your local fine wine shop and ask for a bottle of Cerasulo. This rosé is from Abruzzo in Italy and is a bright cherry color. It’s medium in body and probably the fullest flavored rosé made anywhere in the world. It will pair well with veggie dishes, pastas, as well as meat and fish-based mains. Another great choice is Tavel, a bone-dry medium-bodied and fuller-flavored rosé from France.

Barolo is a Nebbiolo based red wine that’s perfect for an Easter dinner of roasted lamb
French wines like Châteauneuf-du-Papes and Gigondas pair well with lamb because of their rich flavors and spice

Best wines to pair with lamb at Easter

Red

  • Barolos, Barbarescos and Nebbiolo d’Albas. These Nebbiolo-based reds are medium-bodied and quite tannic so it’s best to decant your wine before you drink it and choose a vintage that is at least six or seven years old. Top Tip: Barolo and Barbaresco taste best when you drink them out of a New World Pinot Noir glass.
  • Chianti Classico Riservas. A Chianti Classico Riserva is an Italian wine from Tuscany with good acidity. You’ll pay a bit more for a Riserva level but it will be fuller and more refined with rich flavors thanks to having been aged for longer in oak barrels.
  • Northern Rhône wines. French Rhône wines are perfect for Easter, especially if you’re serving roasted lamb with rosemary and thyme. A northern Rhône Syrah will have red fruit with herbal notes. A Shiraz (which is Syrah that’s grown in Australia) will have more spice to it.
  • Châteauneuf-du-Papes and Gigondas. It’s hard to go wrong with full-bodied South-of-France reds made with Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. Note, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape will be at the higher end of your budget but will pair well with roasted meat with a Dijon crusting.
  • Reds from Priorat and Rioja Reservas. If you enjoy Spanish reds, a bottle from the Priorat region can be an unusual choice. A Priorat may be a blend of the Carignen, Grenache, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Tempranillo grape varietals, but a Rioja Reserva will be mostly Tempranillo.

White

  • Oak aged Chardonnay. Oak aged Chardonnay is more full-bodied and can be rich with some texture to it. It’s perfect for a roasted lamb dish. There are plenty of Chardonnay options from California, but you can also try a Chardonnay from Burgundy. They make Chardonnay in South Africa and Australia too!
  • White Rhône wines. A wine from the northern or southern French Rhône regions can be rich with floral and herbal hints alongside stone-fruits like peach and nectarine. Look for a Viognier or a Roussanne Marsanne blend that will have the body and fruit to stand up to fuller flavors in meat.
  • White Riojas. These wines from the Rioja region in Spain are often aged extensively in oak which gives them more body and texture. Whites from Rioja pair best with roasted lamb.

Other ideas for Easter reds

  • Pinotage. Pinotage is a wine from South Africa that’s fuller bodied than a Pinot Noir but not as tannic as a Cabernet.
  • Malbec. A Malbec Reserva from Argentina is a more refined wine with spice, chocolate and tobacco notes. It makes a nice pairing if you’re grilling spring veggies or having roasted lamb.
  • St. Emillion. If you or your guests like to drink bigger reds, go with a St. Emilion / Pomerol from Bordeaux that will be a Merlot dominated blend. It will go best with rich or spicy lamb preparations.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a dry wine with citrus and fruity notes. It can pair well with lighter food and appetizers, or a salmon dish. Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand will have more up front and loud tropical fruits, whereas a French wine from the Loire region will be more refined with citrus and mineral notes. Note, this is the best bottle to bring if you’ve been invited to someone’s house for Easter and don’t know the rest of the guests. That’s because it’s easy to drink and most people will like it!

We eat asparagus in spring and a Gruner Vetliner is a white wine pairing for this Easter veggie

4 Things to keep in mind when it comes to wines at Easter

  1. Try to keep things light. Easter tends to involve less hearty dishes and more fresh food as opposed to other holiday meals. This means it’s best to stock up on more whites and rosés.
  2. Serve a dessert wine with sweet breads. Some traditional Easter meals include sweet and decorative breads made with egg and dried fruit. These pair wonderfully with dessert wines. Try a German Auslese or a late-harvest Sauterne which will have honey and floral notes.
  3. Pairing wine with asparagus isn’t always easy. It’s not uncommon to serve a veggie side dish of asparagus at Easter. Asparagus is a spring vegetable that goes with salmon and lamb, as well as eggs and many savory brunch foods. However, unless it’s served with hollandaise sauce, it can be tricky to find a glass of wine that goes with it. You could try a Gewurztraminer, or pair a Torontes from Argentina. A Grüner Veltliner is a fresh wine from Austria that will also work. Grüner Veltliner has grassy notes and goes well with salads too!
  4. Pay attention to the temperature of your wine. Ideally you want to serve reds at 65 degrees – especially Beaujolais. To lightly chill a red, you can either put the bottle in the fridge for twenty minutes before opening, or if it’s not too warm or too cold outside, chill it on a sheltered patio.

If you’re going out for Easter brunch

Easter brunch often features a lot of lighter egg and vegetable dishes alongside smoked salmon, grilled meats and salads. Sancerre is a French Sauvignon Blanc with zesty citrus and mineral hints, and good acidity. It’s a perfect accompaniment to egg-based dishes like quiche and you should be able to find it by the glass. Alternatively, order a Mâcon-Villages, or another light or unoaked Chardonnay.

Sparkling wine or a bottle of Champagne is a great way to start Easter dinner off

More on sparkling wines

A glass of bubbly is a nice way to welcome guests at Easter. You can raise a toast at the start of your meal or drink sparkling wine with dinner – it goes best with appetizers like soups and salads, and lighter entrées.

Champagne is sparkling wine from the Champagne region. Only sparkling wines from this part of France can actually be called Champagne. But while Champagne can be quite expensive, France also makes Cremant which is an excellent value wine produced using the Méthode Champenoise (where the bubbles are introduced through fermentation in the bottle).

Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine produced in the hilly region north of Verona, using the native Italian grape Glera. Prosecco is made in a different way using the Charmant process which involves large tanks vs. individual bottles. Prosecco is a good value sparkling wine and won’t break your budget. Note, Prosecco can range from dry to medium-dry.

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author

Freddy is a retired wine professional and wine educator who was Vice President of the sixth largest wine importer and wholesaler in the United States for over 40 years. He currently works as a wine consultant and collaborates with his daughter to write articles that help people learn about wine.

Brian Keeping
Reviewer

Brian Keeping

Brian is an avid wine enthusiast and wine educator who has spent 45+ years in the fine wine industry. From 1975 to 1994 he was part owner and sales director of Silenus Wines and from 1994 to 2021 served as Fine Wine Director at Carolina Wines & Spirits.

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