Great Ontario VQA Wines to Pair with Easter Ham

With Easter just around the corner, you may be starting to plan a feast fit for a queen…or at least your family and friends. As with any special occasion, wine can play an important role. Wine not only tastes great on its own, but a carefully chosen one can also enhance the flavour of the food it’s paired with. This year, why not go local and choose a VQA wine from Ontario.  With so many styles of VQA wine available there’s definitely a great match for whatever dish you decide to serve.  This post was inspired by an article I wrote last year for Suite101.com, “Great Wines for an Easter Feast”.

Wine Pairings with Ham

The most popular Easter meal in North America usually focuses on ham as the main event.  Ham is a very versatile meat that can pair with white, rosé, and even some red wines. Ham has delicious, delicate flavours and is almost always salty. In order to balance this saltiness, it is common to add some sweetness to the dish in the form of brown sugar, honey, pineapples, or cloves. The best wines to pair with ham are light, very fruity, and, if it’s a red, low in tannins. Some excellent matches for ham are:

White:

Riesling: Riesling is generally a fruity wine with good acidity that can help cut through some of the richness of the ham.  Ontario’s cool climate and unique terroir provides growers and winemakers almost perfect conditions to make excellent Rieslings.  A few of my favourites are:

Twenty Twenty-Seven Cellars Featherstone Vineyard Riesling 2009 VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($24.95 at Vintages or online). This virtual winery is winning high accolades from wine lovers and experts alike.  Absolutely delicious!

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula($17.95 at Vintages or at the winery). This is my favourite go-to Riesling for a few years now.  It’s consistently good and well-priced.

Chardonnay: A lightly oaked Chardonnay is perfect with ham served with pineapple. The light oak can match the slight smokiness of the ham and the wine’s fruit flavours will complement the pineapple. Great examples of Chardonnay can be found throughout the world, but it is becoming quite obvious to wine-lovers that Ontario also makes fabulous world-class Chardonnay.  Read my post called “Seriously Cool Canadian Chardonnay” for a longer list of amazing Ontario Chardonnays, but here are a few more:

Rosewood Estates Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2008 VQA Beamsville Bench ($25 at the winery).  Aromatic, elegant and bursting with lively acidity.

Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2007 VQA Prince Edward County ($29.95 at Vintages, at the winery, and online). This wine won ‘White Wine of the Year’ at the Ontario Wine Awards in 2010.  Not much is left at the LCBO so get it quick.

Rosé:

Rosé: Rosé wine sales are on the rise, and it’s no wonder – they can be quite tasty and refreshing and can be a great match to many dishes, including ham. Look for dry or off-dry versions.

Malivoire Ladybug Rosé 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula ($15.95 at Vintages, at the winery, and online) A blend of mostly Cabernet Franc with some Gamay and Pinot Noir.  Delicious and refreshing with bright fruit flavours.

Southbrook Vineyards Cabernet Rosé 2009 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($18.95 at the winery) A blend of mostly Cabernet Franc with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a certified organic and biodynamic wine that even the Martha Stewart Radio Blog recommends!

Sparkling Rosé:  For something even more special, try a sparkling rosé.

13th Street Cuvee 13 Rosé NV ($24.95 at the winery and online).  A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made using the traditional method.  13th Street is one of the leaders of quality sparkling wine in Ontario. Buy any of their sparkling wines and you won’t be disappointed.

Hillebrand Trius Brut Rose ($29.95 at the winery). A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and a little Pinot Meunier, made using the traditional method.  If you’re at Hillebrand, be sure to take a tour of their incredible sparkling wine cellar.

Red:

Gamay: Gamay is best known in the wines of Beaujolais, but Ontario also produces great examples of fruit-filled Gamays.  Wines made from Gamay, also called Gamay Noir, are low in tannin and have an abundance of fruit flavours, making them tasty partners with ham.  Ontario versions tend to be fuller-bodied and have darker fruit flavours and a bit more spice than their Beaujolais counterparts.

Chateau des Charmes Gamay Droit 2008 VQA St David’s Bench ($14.95 at the LCBO, at the winery, and online)  This special clone of Gamay, called Gamay Droit, was discovered in 1982 in a Chateau des Charmes vineyard and is now considered “Canada’s first vinifera”.  The vine shoots grow in a upward (droit) position and the grapes ripen later than other Gamays.  The resulting wines are fuller-bodied with more alcohol and flavour concentration.  A delicious warm weather red wine and it goes great with ham.

13th Street Gamay Noir 2008 ($17.95 at the winery, online, and there’s a bit left at the LCBO)  Not only does this winery make stellar sparkling wine, but they also make wonderful Gamay Noirs.  This wine is full of juicy red fruit and white pepper flavours with a touch of vanilla from the 12 months of ageing in oak.

Pinot Noir: This grape can produce many different styles of wine, from very light and almost Beaujolais-like, to deep, dark and brooding. When pairing with ham look for the lighter versions with vibrant fruit flavours and a touch of spice. Pinot Noir from Ontario fits the bill perfectly and is a great pairing with ham and mustard.

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2009 VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($19.95 at the winery, online, and the LCBO)  Medium-bodied and full of spicy red berry flavours, and at under $20 it’s a great value too.

Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2009 VQA Prince Edward County ($35 at the winery and online) Ripe red berry fruit, violets, and a touch of spice.  A delicious Pinot from Prince Edward County.

Chocolate Desserts:

Since chocolate easter eggs and bunnies seem to be popular at this time of year, read “Wine and Chocolate – What More Could You Ask For?” for ideas on wines to pair with your chocolate treats.

If you prefer serving lamb for Easter dinner, then look for my upcoming post recommending Ontario VQA wine with lamb.

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