We all know the story of Jesus turning water into wine at Cana, as recounted in the Gospel According to St. John.
The miracle is significant, of course, because it is the first of the seven miraculous signs by which Jesus’s divine status is attested, and around which the gospel is structured.
And what was the first that Noah did after the flood? He planted vines and made wine.
To the ancients, the grapevine and wine were among God’s (or the gods’) greatest gifts. Just consider the scarcity of potable water in the Bronze Age. The grapevine, which flourishes even in unfavorable conditions, provided nourishment and quenched thirst when water was unavailable.
But I wonder whether wine’s significance at Easter had waned over the two millenniums since the Last Supper?
The biblical Easter story is internationally known. Easter is celebrated as one of the oldest Christian traditions commemorating the last days of the life of Jesus Christ, his death, and resurrection. Christians use this time to reflect upon their lives and are seen as a time to renew their faith. It is therefore a holiday that is held in high regard and is also a great way for people to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus by breaking their fast.
Wine and Easter are simply inseparable since wine is the symbol of promise and resurrection in Christian culture. It is therefore traditional to toast with wine on Easter Sunday. And let’s be honest, we all look forward to Easter. Most of us will take advantage of this time to meet up with old friends. And what better way to do this than with great food and company? Whatever wine you pair with your Easter dishes this weekend, please remember that wine is so much more than just an Epicurean delight.
In Portugal, it is customary to have a hearty table, where cod is the protagonist, in addition to the long-awaited chocolate eggs. However, a typical Easter meal goes beyond the dishes served, the presence of delicious wines being essential. Harmonizing wines with the typical foods of Easter brings even more charm and helps to make the moment more joyful and fraternal.
So, have you already chosen the wines you will enjoy on this special date? Keep reading and check out my tips!
• For cold cuts boards, skewers, and other meat-based snacks, choose light red wines, such as Pinot Noir;
• As for the fried starters, such as polenta, onion rings, and potatoes, a good choice is the drier sparkling wines that have high acidity to clean the taste of fat;
• The delicious cheese board harmonizes perfectly with a light or medium-bodied red wine, such as Merlot, or a traditional white, such as Chardonnay.
By tradition, Easter lunch has fish options, including cod and salmon, as well as seafood.
Shrimp dishes call for whites
Despite being extremely delicate and light, shrimp meat is one of the tastiest alternatives we can find in the seafood universe. Pay attention to the best wines that harmonize with each seasoning, as this meat absorbs well the characteristics of the ingredients used in its recipe.
For very spicy preparations, opt for white wines with lower alcohol content. You can serve them with a good aromatic white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling.
For shrimp made in butter or with very creamy preparations, more full-bodied white wines – such as Chardonnays – can help balance the flavor.
Grilled prawns and risotto, in turn, harmonize very well with sparkling wines, while a complete paella calls for very young Aragonez or Tinta Roriz wines.
A type of wine for each type of salmon
Another favorite ingredient for Easter lunch is salmon, one of the most prized fish in the world, both for its flavor and nutritional value. Salmon, however, is a fish that has completely different characteristics – texture, aroma, and flavor – which vary according to the type of preparation. Therefore, the choice of the best wines can also vary according to the type of recipe:
• For salmon consumed raw, light white wine is the right choice, so as not to compete with the smooth flavor of the cuts. If the preparation process uses citrus ingredients, such as lemon juice, you can replace the white wine with a Brut sparkling wine, which helps to refresh the palate.
• Smoked salmon harmonizes well with rosé wines and sparkling wines, which are exquisite in the right measure for this type of meat, with a slightly stronger flavor.
• Pasta that has salmon as one of its ingredients can harmonize with white or rosé wines, the first being ideal for white sauces and the second for tomato sauces.
• For those who choose grilled salmon, white wines from the Sauvignon Blanc grape are good choices or red wine from the Pinot Noir grape;
• Boiled salmon pairs very well with a white Portuguese espumante (sparkling wine).
If you want to end your Easter lunch in style, how about pairing sweets with great dessert wines?
For recipes made with dark chocolate, a dry red wine may be the right choice for the meal. Sweet desserts, however, call for sweeter wines as an accompaniment. Therefore, Port wine or late-harvest wines are interesting alternatives due to their sweeter flavor and liqueur appearance. These wines go well with milk and white chocolate, as well as with fruit pies and cakes.
Well, for your meeting with family and friends to be complete, it might be a good idea to invest in the type of wines that will harmonize perfectly with the dishes you will prepare for the traditional Easter lunch. To help you with this task, here are some kinds of wines that go well with some of the dishes served at Easter.
The white Chardonnay grape variety gives rise to light and fresh wines, as long as they do not age in oak barrels. When the Chardonnays are from colder regions, providing greater elegance and freshness. In warmer regions, the aromas of ripe fruit and the density caused by the alcohol content are more evident.
As for pairing: the young wines are great to enjoy with pasta in white sauce and grilled fish. The oak-aged ones are the ideal company for the traditional bacalhau, as well as shrimp and pasta with cheese-based sauces.
My suggestion to taste: Quinta do Gradil Chardonnay White
The fame of rosé wines is justified by their lightness and delicacy, ideal for warmer days, as it usually happens on the Easter holiday.
Because they have the freshness of white wines and a structure that is slightly reminiscent of reds, they combine with various dishes, even more so if the choice is fish or seafood. By the way, if the menu includes Bacalhau à Brás, know that they ask for the strong presence and elegance that the rosés have in abundance.
My suggestion to taste: Maçanita Touriga Nacional em Rosé
Pinot Noir produces wines with delicate flavors and less intense red color. Its aromatic notes are dominated by the presence of red fruits, in addition to the delicate notes of spices. As it ages, more complex aromas emerge, such as dried flowers and mushrooms.
Although it is a lighter red wine with few tannins, it has a vibrant acidity, making it combine both with lean meats and with dishes that have tuna or salmon as the main ingredient, noting that they are more fatty fish. Due to its versatility, it is perfect for an Easter lunch where there is a wide variety of dishes.
My suggestion to taste: Campolargo Pinot Noir Red
Vinho Verde wines
Vinho Verde wines seem to have been traditionally made to pair with fish and seafood. That’s why we like to call it a joker option for the Easter lunch. As long as the dishes are smooth and with little seasoning – this wine is the perfect wine to accompany recipes prepared with white fish, which is very common at Easter.
My suggestion to taste: Quinta de Santiago Alvarinho Loureiro White
Easter dinner is our happiest, most joyful meal of the year, as we emerge from the dark days of Lent. So, we should enjoy it with our favorite drink since the symbolism of wine is that it is a joyful drink, in addition to it being the blood of Christ.
I wish you all a Happy Easter!
And one more interesting fact: if you have been fasting, the sense of taste is always more sensitive after weaning, and therefore experience tastes in a completely new way after weaning. This is how your glass of wine becomes a special experience at Easter.
The article was published in the Algarve Plus Magazine, March issue of 2023