EASTER has acquired several food-centred traditions, whether to provide a stylish ending to the deprivations of Lent or to celebrate the start of spring. Chocolate is one, but so is serving lamb on Easter Sunday. Happily there are some great wines that perfectly match traditional Easter fare.
Wine to accompany lamb (especially the customary choice – claret or rioja) often gets the nod because it has a degree of tannin to neutralise any fattiness in the meat. One claret that seems purpose-built for the job is 2009 Château du Baradis (£10.99, Ellies Cellar). This hails from Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, an eastward extension of St Emilion. The limestone soil helps the build-up of acidity in the grapes. As well as giving tannin a helping hand in complementing lamb, this acidity adds real freshness. In this case, it also integrates well with leafy, bramble fruit and the cedar, nutmeg and vanilla cocktail that supplements it.
From across the river, in Haut Médoc, comes another good lamb companion – 2009 Château Peyredon Lagravette (£14.99, Averys). Even more versatile than Baradis, this Cru Bourgeois red adds restrained yet vibrant acidity to its meaty, black cherry fruit while the deep colour and firm (but not tough) tannins confirm that the blend is around two thirds cabernet sauvignon.
Hard on the heels of my top claret comes 2009 La Terrasse de La Garde (£11.99, down from £14.99, Sainsbury’s) from Pessac-Léognan, just south of Bordeaux. This second wine of the highly regarded Château La Garde is 60 per cent merlot – as its spicy cherry flavours signal – but it also has cabernet-derived minty blackcurrant edges and building tannin.
Over the Pyrenées, 2004 Cune Imperial Rioja Reserva (£14.99, Co-op) works well by combining deep bramble fruit and a concluding twist of the tannin that is such a friend to lamb. The extra time a reserva spends in oak has imparted an additional smoothness along with appealing touches of vanilla.
For a less orthodox but possibly more effective companion to lamb, try 2010 Torres Salmos Priorat (£18.49, Waitrose Direct). This is a great example of the powerful Catalonian wines, with typically intense and concentrated bramble and blackcurrant fruit. This also has a slatey minerality with a finish of smooth, balanced oak and cinnamon.
I turn now to Easter’s sweet side. Matching wine with chocolate can be tricky, but Blandy’s Alvada Five Year Old Madeira (£12.99 for 50cl, Waitrose) does a good job. It brings together the figgy, dried fruit flavours of the bual grape with the sweeter and more luxurious ones of malmsey and adds hints of peach-based acidity that work well with the richness of chocolate.
Another chocolate-friendly wine is Seriously Plummy Grande Reserve Maury Dessert Wine (£10.99 for 37.5cl, Waitrose). This is a vin doux naturel made from grenache in southern France’s Roussillon region. Its warm, spicy cherry and plum flavours work brilliantly with chocolate to create an enticing resemblance to cherry liqueur.
Finally, another robust, table wine grape that pairs well with chocolate is malbec. From Argentina’s Mendoza region comes 2010 Familia Zuccardi Malamado Malbec (£14.95, Bon Vivant’s Companion), which is fortified to 19 per cent alcohol and has just the right balance between sweetness and acidity. Flavours include damsons, nuts and toasty orange, creating something akin to a light and supple port.
This covers mainstream Easter food and the wine to complement it. Next week I explore whites that work well with less traditional Easter fare. n
WINES OF THE WEEK
2011 Taste the Difference Coolwater Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand, 13 per cent
Typical of the current complexity being built into sauvignon, this delivers a soft, tangerine-based layer that sits beneath and embellishes the more orthodox fresh grapefruit acidity and sherbet lime touches. £7.49 (down from £9.99), Sainsbury’s
2011 Brancott Estate Pinot Noir Marlborough, New Zealand, 13 per cent
Formerly known as Montana, this has all the soft raspberry and cherry fruits that made pinot so popular, rounded out with a nutty, slightly woody, mineral and all-spice finish. £6.98 (down from £11.98), Asda