Polish the silver and break out the dinnerware. Easter is right around the corner, and soon, families near and far will gather together to celebrate with a holiday brunch feast.
Delicious eggs benedict, duck hash, cuts of ham, spring vegetables, sweet treats — you name it — are likely to grace the table, with plenty of wine for pairing. But unlike the big, bold wines served with hearty dishes during the winter holidays, Easter brunch is all about light and bright wines. Choosing bottles that aren’t so high in alcohol and which work with various seasonal dishes is a sure way to set the tone.
The best way to get things started? A bottle of bubbly, of course.
Bubbles from beginning to end
“I always like to start with a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine. It’s a great way to kick off the gathering as people show up. Everyone can have a glass of something nice and bubbly before the meal, or they can fill up with bubbly during the meal. Sparkling wine does tend to pair very well across the board with many different foods,” says Brahm Callahan, a master sommelier and CEO of Faucet Wine in Boston.
Another perk of bubbly? Champagne and sparkling wines are on the lighter end of the alcohol spectrum, often just 12% alcohol by volume.
“You can day drink sparkling and Champagne a little better than you would with a big, giant Cabernet Sauvignon,” adds Callahan.
The crisp orchard and stone fruit nuances and nutty, yeasty notes associated with sparkling wines complement the flavors of many brunch food favorites, while also acting as a palate cleanser between courses or at the end of the meal.
“That’s the other thing about Champagne and sparkling wine — it’s almost like scrubbing bubbles that clean your mouth. They make the palate feel fresh and ready to go again before the next bite,” says Callahan.
Although Champagne tends to lean more expensive, there are many sparkling wines that are a cost-effective option. Erin Swain, a sommelier at Estiatorio Milos in New York City, recommends searching for bottles of Crémant d’Alsace, the sparkling wine of Alsace, France. Italian Prosecco and Spanish Cava are also “fantastic choices if you’re budget-conscious,” notes Swain.
Pol Roger Champagne Brut Réserve NV (~$40)
Clean and dry with noticeable minerality, this Champagne by Pol Roger is composed of Meunier and Chardonnay sourced from 30 different crus. It’s pure with complex, stone fruit flavors that intertwine with nutty, vanilla qualities and a perfectly balanced fizz. As for the finish, it’s unforgettably long and elegant.
Domaine Carneros Napa Valley Brut Rosé NV (~$45)
What’s a holiday without rosé? This California sparkling wine is made with a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and displays a vibrant pale pink hue to match its fruity and floral nuances. The wine smells of rose petals and honeysuckle, while the palate is brimming with peachy character.
Jean Vesselle Oeil de Perdrix Champagne Brut Blanc de Noirs NV (~$50)
Produced by Jean Vesselle in Champagne, this bubbly is made with Pinot Noir grapes. The aroma is enchantingly floral and apple nuances, while the palate is complex and full-bodied with high acidity and a scrumptious saline finish. The bubbles are frothy and persistent.
Bisol Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Prosecco 2020 (~$50)
Bisol produces Prosecco from the hilly slopes of Valdobbiadene. Straw yellow with persistent bubbles, this sparkling wine is dry, savory, and structured with elegant floral aromas balanced with ample apple, pear, and peach flavor. The lingering finish is bright and long.
Seasonality is key
With winter officially in the rearview, spring produce is in full swing. The Easter brunch table is where many seasonal veggies and fruits will first make their grand debut. Opt for wines that can highlight the flavors of spring vegetables like asparagus, leeks, and fennel.
“If you’ll have all of these seasonal spring salads, vegetables, and fruits on the table, look for more clean white wines like Grüner Veltliner from Austria or Vermentino from Italy. Sancerre is always a hit,” says Swain.
Swain recommends avoiding textural white wines with a more full-bodied, oaky, creamy, or oily mouthfeel as they can potentially overpower the subtle and delicate undertones of spring produce. Instead, match the texture of the food to the feel of the wine. Crunchy, vibrant vegetables need a crispy counterpart balanced with fresh acidity.
“Look for white wines from cool climates like Riesling, which is incredibly food-friendly,” says Swain. “Many white wines from cool climate regions are also lower in alcohol, around 11% to 12.5%.”
Callahan deems Riesling as the best option for the traditional honey-baked ham on the Easter menu. “There’s a lot of sugar and caramel notes in the meat that Riesling works so well with,” says Callahan.
However, light white wines aren’t the only bottles that deserve a place on the Easter brunch table.
Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d'Asti DOCG 2021 (~$24)
Michele Chiarlo was founded in 1956 and has since become one of the finest wineries in Italy’s Piedmont region. This straw yellow and fizzy Moscato radiates with peach and apricot aromas. The palate is clean with a notable effervescence and fresh finish.
Feudi di San Gregorio Campania Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2019 (~$25)
Feudi di San Gregorio has made world-class wines in Campania, Italy since 1986. The chamomile fragrances of this golden yellow Fiano are not to be missed. Meanwhile, the palate is soft with candied orange and peach flavors that get a lift from fresh minerality.
Arnaud Lambert Chateau Brézé Clos David Saumur Blanc 2019 (~$42)
A Chenin Blanc from the Saumur-Champigny winemaking region in France, this crisp, white wine is bright with green apple and lime peel nuances, while the palate is drenched in fresh minerality that lingers.
Tablas Creek Esprit Paso Robles Blanc de Tablas 2019 (~$50)
This wine is made from a blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc, and Picardan grown in the Paso Robles region of California. Produced by Tablas Creek Vineyard, the wine delivers delectable aromas of stone fruit and florals with hints of fresh herbs. On the palate, mineral notes mingle with melon, dried lemon, and honey flavors.
“Stick to light- and medium-body red wines. Thin-skinned grapes, like Pinot Noir, are always best. Zweigelt from Austria is the wine to reach for if you want to drink an obscure variety. It’s more medium body and almost reminds me of a Grenache — so it’s right in the middle in terms of weight,” says Swain.
A cross between two varieties commonly found in Austria, Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent, Zweigelt is loved for its bright, fruity, tart characteristics, notably soft tannins, and healthy acidity.
Another easy-drinking red wine to consider is Gamay, the red grape of Beaujolais. The cousin to Pinot Noir, Gamay displays delicate floral aromas and earthy nuances. And while the most basic iterations of Gamay are rather juicy, bottles labeled Beaujolais-Villages and wines from Beaujolais’ cru regions have firmer tannins that can stand up to all types of dishes, according to Callahan.
“Château Thivin makes excellent Beaujolais with structure and complexity without being too heavy,” says Callahan. “That’s a wine that many of our guests enjoy when we’re serving it at a brunch or dinner.”
However, it’s important to know your audience and provide a variety of options for guests to choose from, even if that’s not necessarily in line with the light and bright brunch theme.
“If Uncle Bob really loves Cabernet Sauvignon with his holiday meal, then you have to have at least one Cabernet Sauvignon for Uncle Bob,” says Swain. “After all, it’s Easter, and it’s more about who you’re drinking the wine with than what you’re drinking.”
Kiona Vineyards Red Mountain Lemberger 2019 (~$16)
Lemberger, also known as Blaufränkisch, is a grape widely found in Germany and is known for producing light styles of red wine that are dashingly vibrant with acidity. The grapes for this bottling are from the first Lemberger vines planted in the United States by Kiona in the Red Mountain region of Washington state’s famous Columbia Valley. The wine is medium-bodied and fruit-driven, with charming blue fruit aromas and flavors.
Weingut Höpler Burgenland Zweigelt 2017 (~$26)
Höpler produces wine in the Burgenland region of Austria, just southeast of Vienna in the Leithaberg Hills near Lake Neusiedl. Don’t let the spicy cinnamon aroma fool you. The bright red wine is juicy to its core and packed with ripe red and black cherry fruit flavors backed by a dash of minerality.
Domaine Jean Foillard Beaujolais-Villages 2018 (~$30)
Gamay grapes used for this wine grow in the Côte du Py, right outside the town of Villié-Morgon. Made by Jean and Agnès Foillard, who took over the family winery in 1980, this light red wine is expressive with tropical fruit aromas. However, the palate displays the spicy, cherry, mineral-rich structure wines from Morgon are known for.
Bernabeleva Arroyo del Tórtolas Garnacha 2019 (~$45)
This floral and elegant ruby-red wine hails from the rugged eastern edge of Spain’s Sierra de Gredos Mountains, about an hour away from Madrid. The ripe cherry and blueberry fruit aromas are abundant, while the palate is balanced and complete with juicy acidity and a long-lasting mineral finish.