Easter is almost upon us, whether you’re religious or not, it’s a time for family, good food and with a little help from us…good wine. So, we’ve put together a simple guide of which wines to buy for all those popular Easter dishes. We’re talking Good Friday Fish, Easter Sunday Roast and of course the vitally important CHOCOLATE
Some of my fondest memories of growing up in a little English village revolve around Easter celebrations. The village-wide chocolate easter egg hunts were something to look forward to, something to be taken very seriously and something which went on for hours spanning the entire village. Of course, I am now older and wiser and see it for what it was, an excuse for my parents to have a few hours break during a two-week school holiday. That being said, although my love for the hunt has diminished, my love of chocolate certainly has not. It has simply evolved from cheap milk chocolate to rich bitter dark chocolate, preferably Belgian and with a glass of something nice on the side (I have been asked to mention that other types of chocolate are available)
As for wine, if the thought of sweet wine brings you out in chills then look to rich, powerful, dried fruit flavoured red wines like Amarone della Valpolicella. But if you can handle a touch of sweetness in your wine life then sweet Grenache Noir or Port is the way forward: a Late Bottled Vintage would be good but for a touch more class and complexity then go for a mature Tawny Port, like 20-year-old Graham's Tawny.
Good Friday Fish Dish
When matching fish you must consider the type of fish and how it is cooked. A creamy white fish pie will need something suitably weighty to stand up to all that flavour. So pull out a lightly oaked White Burgundy such as Chavy-Chouet Puligny Montrachet or a more wallet-friendly creamy Pouilly-Loche.
Now if you’re planning on baking your fish or going for something like smoked salmon then pop a bottle of crisp Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge and you won’t be disappointed. For traditionalists, Sancerre and Pouilly Fume are classics for a reason. But I like to be a little different and I recommend one of the best wines I’ve had in the past year. From the iconic producer Gaja, the Alteni di Brassica is a Langhe Sauvignon Blanc of stunning quality and a mineral finish that seems to last an eternity. I simply cannot recommend this enough as a fish dish accompaniment.
Rack of Lamb or Rib of Beef?
For me growing up, Easter Sunday was always roasted lamb, with roast potatoes and a spoonful of mint sauce (yes I know that is very weird to the French). But whilst researching this list I am surprised to find that Beef is also a tradition for many people. Although the flavour profiles are slightly different the similarities help when matching food and wine. Both are salty red meat roasts so will be complemented by medium to full-bodied, tannic reds, such as Bordeaux.
For a rack of Lamb, my choice is left bank Bordeaux. That is to say a Cabernet Sauvignon heavy blend from the Medoc side of the river. The depth, the cassis flavours and the earthy tones sit nicely alongside Lamb, and the protein and fats in the meat will breakdown the tannic structure of the wine leaving the wine soft, smooth and full of flavour. The wines you want for Lamb come from the appellations of Pauillac and Saint-Julien or the more keenly priced Medoc and Haut-Medoc. But of course, there is a wonderful world beyond France and fruiter, more intense Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley in California and Coonawarra in Australia would certainly fit the bill.
When it comes to Beef, you want similar traits to the left bank Bordeaux but slightly softer, rounder example. This is why I love roasted beef and right-bank Bordeaux, as in a Merlot dominated red wines from appellations such as Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. These soft, velvety smooth reds have wonderful plummy, oaky flavours and become even more supple when enjoyed with Beef. At the moment, for varying budgets, my picks are La Foret, La Truffe and La Dominique
I am getting asked more and more about matches for vegetarian dishes and this is seriously difficult because they vary so much. It is like asking what wine goes with meat dishes?! It’s so broad a term I feel we need to be more specific. Now if we are thinking of roasted seasonal vegetables, then we are talking carrots, sweet onion and even beets. Which thanks to their higher sugar levels, glaze over perfectly when roasted, meaning they can be matched perfectly with aromatic wines like Spanish Albarino or even intense Austrian Gruner Veltliner.
Nut roasts on the other hand are fuller in flavour and can be heavenly with strong powerful reds, similar to those for matching roast lamb; Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wines from Bordeaux. But I would actually take it a step further, a good nut roast can stand up to the spice and power found in Syrah, Grenache blends from the Rhone or Languedoc. As long as the alcohol and power are balanced by ripe dark fruits then you’ll be on safe ground. For example, our top-notch Pic Saint Loup ‘Madame’ by Château de Lancyre has the oomph to stand up to intense flavours but also the supple softness to slip down without thinking after the meal is long gone.
Enjoy these suggestions and Happy Easter!