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Easter time affords diners a chance at perfect wine, food pairings

| Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Easter dinners the world over coincide with nature's “rebirth.” As the beginning of a new growing season brings fresh hope, traditionally, Easter meals incorporated whatever ingredients might be on hand after enduring winter's harshness. A delicious diversity of flavors results to create tempting pairing opportunities with wine.

Sopa de Ajo or Garlic Soup, an Easter favorite in Spain, calls for sweating, but not burning, lots of peeled garlic in olive oil over low heat. Chopped Serrano ham goes next into the pan to brown. Then slices of stale bread lightly coated with olive oil and sweet Spanish paprika go in.

After adding chicken stock and a bay leaf, the soup simmers for 20 minutes or so. Finally, fresh eggs laid on top of the soup poach for several minutes for a colorful symbol of rebirth.

Spanish garlic soup pairs beautifully with crisp whites. Try the 2010 Torres, Sangre de Toro “Viña Sol,” Catalunya, Spain (38460; $12.99) made from Parellada grapes grown at high altitudes. The wine exudes fresh and fruity aromas of apples, pears and peach.

Fermented and aged in stainless steel, the wine sees no oak and offers fruity flavors and a crisp, dry finish. The wine's freshness perfectly parallels spring's bracing arrival. Recommended.

As a child in northern Italy, author and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich joined her family for an Easter tavolette or outdoor picnic — weather permitting, of course. Fresh asparagus figured prominently in salads, frittatas and piping-hot risotto with shaved Grana Padano cheese.

Asparagus presents a wine-pairing challenge, but it goes beautifully with the 2010 Tiefenbrunner, Pinot Bianco, Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy (38252; $14.99). This lovely wine's crisp and clean style typifies whites from Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy's northernmost region bordering Austria. Apple and pineapple aromas unfold in the glass and carry through the well-balanced, dry finish. Highly recommended.

Traditionally throughout the southern United States, farm-cured hams took center stage at Easter. Southern Living magazine offers a classic recipe calling for studding the ham with cloves and baking it with a brown sugar and bourbon glaze. Today, the tradition has gained popularity throughout the land.

A robust red wine would overpower the baked ham's combination of savory juiciness and sweet flavors. Most white wines will not deliver enough body to pair well. Serving a full-flavored, yet well-balanced, rosé provides a perfect solution.

Try the 2011 Château Trinquevedel, Tavel, France (Luxury 31078; $15.99), a benchmark for outstanding southern French rosés. Tavel rosés enjoy such high regard that the appellation's producers make no other wines, neither white nor red. Grapes from Tavel's very best parcels go into the delicious wines to create a ruddy salmon color.

In this case, winegrower Guillaume Demoulin uses both red-skinned grapes — grenache noir, cinsault, syrah and mourvèdre — and white-skinned grapes — bourboulenc, clairette and grenache blanc. The vines toil in sandy soils covered by galets roulés (rounded stones). It makes for arduous farming, but the resulting fruit delivers intense aromas, terrific concentration and refreshing acidity.

Demoulin uses saignée — the bleeding off of “free run” grape juice before pressing — followed by a light pressing of the grapes. The resulting wine offers irresistible balance. Red fruit and spice aromas with lavender notes lead to ripe fruit flavors. Fresh acidity balances the dry, fruity finish. Highly recommended.

Throughout the Mediterranean and now in the United States, roasted lamb makes a tremendously popular Easter dinner choice. In southern France, Easter celebrants typically roast leg of lamb with red wine, plenty of garlic, carrots and savory herbs such as thyme, rosemary and bay leaf.

The dish creates a marvelous combination with robust southern reds such as the 2009 Château St. Martin de la Garrigue, “Bonnzinelle,” Coteaux Languedoc, France (Luxury 36018; $17.99). The winery lies near the town of Pézenas, not far from the city of Béziers and the Mediterranean Sea's moderating breezes.

Winemaker Jean-Claude Zabalia uses syrah with additions of mourvèdre, grenache noir and carignan grown in gravel, sandstone and red and white limestone. The dark ruby color offers smoky meat and black-fruit aromas with black-pepper notes. Dark-fruit flavors with notes of black liquorices balance with fresh acidity and ultra-fine tannins. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone is the wine columnist for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at ddesimone@tribweb.com.

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