EASTER sees the psychological – if not official – start of spring and, thus, provides yet another reason to mark this important religious festival with a celebratory meal.
Eating lamb at this time of year actually predates Christian times but still represents the centrepiece of Easter Sunday lunch in many households. If yours is one of them, remember lamb has a reasonably high fat content, which means two things – eat it pink (and as hot as possible) and opt for red wine. Tradition argues for claret or rioja largely because their tannins are good at breaking down meats with a tendency to fattiness.
Try, for example, the brilliant 2001 Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial (£14.39, Costco), which balances concentrated minty, fruit-forward bramble flavours with a ripe, vaguely cherry tobacco finish. For the Bordeaux option, a good option is the excellent plum-charged 2007 Château Soussans Margaux (£23.50, The Bon Vivant Companion, Edinburgh), containing some nice herbal touches that resonate with – and replicate – the rosemary and mint that supplement lamb so well.
The other option is to balance any fattiness with the acidity of a pinot noir such as 2007 Tamar Pinot Noir (£17, WoodWinters), from Tasmania, with its soft, raspberry fruit and appealing spicy finish. For an Old World version, try the gentle but lively strawberry flavours and pleasing velvety mouth-feel of 2010 Joseph Drouhin Rully (£13.49, Waitrose).
In America, tradition seems to favour ham for Easter Sunday because animals were usually slaughtered the previous autumn and, in the days before refrigeration, only cured meat would survive until the spring. Ham is quite difficult to match with wine, but gewürztraminer or a mellow riesling is very effective at neutralising any saltiness yet will not be overpowered by the sweetish glazes that are often applied to the meat.
The elegantly perfumed and lychee-influenced 2011 Alsace Gewürztraminer (£9.49, M&S) would be eminently suitable, as would 2008 Cave de Turckheim Riesling Vieilles Vignes (£10.55, www.slurp.co.uk), with its rounder, soft grapefruit touches beneath the lime-based acidity.
Equally, a light red such as 2010 Brown Brothers Tarrango (£7.29, Sainsbury’s) would also do well. It has juicy, red currant-centred fruit that responds well to being chilled.
Fish at Easter is no longer restricted to Good Friday, and salmon has long been part of our family’s celebrations. It can be pretty flexible with wine, although convention usually steers folk towards the whites. As lighter salmon dishes work well with substantial versions of sauvignon blanc, there’s none better to help than Kevin Judd, who was behind the rise of Cloudy Bay and now makes the complex 2011 Greywacke Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£16.99, Lockett Bros, North Berwick), with its cocktail of lemon, orange and gooseberry flavours and concluding hints of minerality.
Richer dishes often make an ideal marriage with white burgundies like 2008 Tesco Finest Meursault (down to £18.79 from tomorrow), which has smooth yet complex flowery lemon touches. Or 2010 Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume (£17.99, Majestic), which neatly supports its fresh citrus flavours with an underlying mellowness.
For dessert comes rich and spicy simnel cake, a reward for the self-imposed deprivations of Lent. A good cake wine is the warm, slightly nutty but beautifully textured 2004 Blandy’s Single Harvest Malmsey Madeira (£16.99, Waitrose Direct). You can find a 1994 vintage of the same madeira at Gordon & MacPhail (01343 545110), in Elgin, for the excellent price of £18.39.
These days, though, all paths lead to chocolate – a widely acknowledged graveyard for good wines. Happily, the Wine Society has come to the rescue with two excellent options that are both spot on. 2010 Moscato d’Asti 2010, Elio Perrone (£6.75) works perfectly with milk chocolate, creating an almost fluffy, mousse-like effect. Dark chocolate, with its comparably low sugar levels, tastes very much like a fruit liqueur when it merges and mingles with the nicely crafted vin doux naturel from Southern France, 2009 Maydie Tannat Vintage 2009 (£11.95 for 50cl).
2009 Côtes du Rhône E Guigal, France, 14 per cent Ignore the humble CdR appellation; this is top-notch Rhône from an excellent producer. It has soft and juicy bramble fruits with a touch of raspberry lightness, nicely balanced tannin and a finish that combines chocolate and spice. £9.95, The Wine Society
2011 The Ned Sauvignon Blanc Waihopai River, New Zealand, 13.5 per cent This is a superbly vibrant sauvignon – low night temperatures in the valley push up acidity – softened by a slightly lime and orange finish. All the quality you expect from winemaker Brent Marris. £6.99 (down from £8.99 until 10 April), Co-op
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Friday 24 May 2013
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