by Nick Adams, MW
Easter is nearly here, and we return to the regular review and recommendations of what should we be drinking with Easter fare and getting together?
The Easter date varies as it falls each year on the Sunday following the paschal full moon after the Spring equinox. In practice, that means that Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after March 21.
Apart from Easter’s important religious references and heritage, it is also a time when we say goodbye to Winter and begin to look forward to longer, brighter, warmer days. In addition, with covid restrictions easing it really is time to meet up with family and friends with much more sense of freedom than in the last few years.
There is a significant mood change as the clocks go forward and we gear up for Spring and Summer. Food produce also changes – with new, young vegetable releases such as the English asparagus season and the arrival of Jersey Royal new potatoes. Historically and symbolically foods such as lamb and fish feature highly.
There is less fanfare than with Christmas but is no less an important time to meet up with friends and family and share good food and wine together. With that in mind I have picked up on a few seasonal and personal highlights for me and sieved again through the Wine Trust list to highlight these.
As before, I am going to be traditional and think fish for Easter Friday to kick the weekend off. This time of the year sees certain sea food at their seasonal best – such as Crab and flat fish like Sole, Plaice, Halibut and Brill, and for a treat Turbot. These all work well with white wine (no surprise), although a dry Rosé can also pair nicely with richer fish such as sea trout and salmon. Crab really needs something crisp, dry, and mouth-watering – whether served simply dressed in a (new potato and leaf) salad or partnered with some gentle chilli and coriander in a pasta. Plainly cooked flat fish tends to demand the same partner, but if you are indulging in a richer, buttery sauce then go for a fuller-bodied Chardonnay to accompany. And for the ubiquitous Salmon then I would opt for a Rosé – or if smoked as a starter – a spicier white.
- Crisp, dry white – ideal with lighter fish dished and shellfish
Suggestion: Côte de Gascogne Duffour Père SW France – a real crowd pleaser unoaked with bright citric fruits and crisp acidity
- Rosé – perfect with oilier fish
Suggestion: The Palm Rosé from Château d’Esclans Provence France – superior, dry Provence rosé with bright red berry and currant notes
- Fuller, richer Chardonnay – ideal with fish cooked with a butter sauce
Suggestion: Tabalí Talinay Vineyard Chardonnay Limari Chile – top notch barrel fermented example, creamy with notes of peach, citrus, and butter
For a vegetarian option – if the weather has been kind the new season English asparagus is a must (if not there is still the very good Peruvian and Mexican options). Asparagus works well with two varieties in particular – Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, especially if steamed and enjoyed with melted butter and black pepper. As with flat fish if you serve with the classic Hollandaise then consider a Chardonnay as well as a Viognier. There are also vegetable risotto options, such as mushroom or a courgette, fennel leek and pine nuts combination. Or a mushroom tart, or beetroot and goats cheese with walnuts. The mushrooms work well with a Pinot Noir or richer Rosé and vegetable mix with a dish also works very well with a full-bodied rosé (ie as with the fish section) or lighter red – especially Pinot Noir.
Suggestion: Domaine de Vedilhan Viognier – Languedoc France – nicely rich and textured stone fruits flavours – more power than your Sauvignon – ideal with asparagus and for richer and maybe roasted veggie dishes
Suggestion: Familia Castaño Monastrell Rosado – Yecla Spain – a richer, creamier stye of rosé with bold soft red fruits and a nice texture – good with the vegetable risotto for example
Suggestion: Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Pinot Noir – Marlborough New Zealand – an elegant style with bright cherry and red berry fruits – would work with mushrooms or the beetroot combination
Onto Easter Sunday and some new season lamb. Ideally a rack or leg, oven roasted and served with confit slow roasted tomatoes, root vegetables and thyme (or rosemary) – and served if available with new season Jersey Royals. Let the lamb rest and deglaze the pan with red wine and some stock (and more herbs) to make a great tasting jus to go with it. This dish cries out for a classic red style – a Malbec, Chianti or oaked Rioja are all great options.
Suggestion: Amalaya Malbec – Calchaquí Valley Salta Argentina – this cooler climate, higher altitude grown, Malbec has intense black fruits, peppery spice and great freshness and will “cut through” the lamb perfectly
Suggestion: Fontodi Chianti Classico – Tuscany Italy – simply one of the region’s finest examples – 100% Sangiovese – deep cherry fruit, savoury, with plenty of texture and polished French oak. Suggest opening the wine for an hour or two before serving
Suggestion: Rioja Reserva Marqués de Murrieta – Rioja Spain – top producer making a classical barrel aged style – Tempranillo led blend with bright strawberry fruits, savoury and silky with measured vanilla oak
And to finish…
On the last day of Easter (Monday) a chance to enjoy a hot and cold spread with plenty of options for all tastes. Nice to think of a long lunch approach too on this day with friends. Make some soup or go for a pork pie and some classic hams for example – English and the ultra-savoury Spanish Serrano and Ibérico. Maybe top up the smoked salmon, or sushi! Serve with a big mixed leaf salad and dressing along with a good mix of crudités – such as blanched and/or raw baby carrots, green beans, celery, tomatoes, shallot, and radish. Finish with a classic dip – such as aioli. And don’t forget plenty of bread (not least for the cheeseboard) and more Jersey Royals if available (or oven roasted chips).
The good news is that this sort of smörgåsbord allows for a liberal selection of wine styles – start with some bubbles, then a mix of dry whites, maybe another rosé, and a light red. And not forgetting chocolate (egg) there is fine wine below which works brilliantly with this challenging food item.
Suggestion: Akarua Rosé Brut NV – Central Otago New Zealand – really good New World bottle fermented sparkling wine (Pinot Noir| Chardonnay blend) creamy, toasty and vibrantly fruity
Suggestion: Quinta Azevedo Vinho Verde – Minho Portugal – lovely dry, crisp, clean, and light bodied style with elevated citrus fruits
Suggestion: Organic Zweigelt Weingut Sepp Moser – Neusiedlersee Austria – under the banner “try something different” this is a lively lighter bodied red from the native Zweigelt grape which has bright redcurrant and raspberry fruit, and a touch of spice
Chocolate Suggestion: Chambers Rosewood Vineyard Liqueur Muscat – Rutherglen Australia – marriage made in heaven – sweet, exotic with aromas and flavours of roses, “rum ‘n’ raisin” dried fruits and toffee. It really does work with chocolate or just an indulgent drink on its own. Serve well chilled and can be drunk over a two-three week period.