Spring has sprung, I’ve been eating hot cross buns for breakfast for the past 2 weeks and there’s a hell of a lot of big and little chocolate eggs tempting me everywhere I look. Hello Easter!
As with most festive occasions there must be the appropriate wine/booze to accompany it. My family tend to stick with the traditional roast lamb for Easter Sunday supper, not because it’s the tradition but because when it’s been cooking for 6 hours in the oven it’s bloody amazing. As usual I’m in charge of wine. Now, despite always trying to be really clever about wine and choosing something that my dad wouldn’t expect, in my mind roast lamb has a very special relationship with one of my favourite wines, Rioja. This special partnership is robust and unbreakable so it’s best not to try and tempt the poor lamb with a younger, more mysterious wine..
A quick lesson on Rioja, it’s a style of wine that comes from a region in northern Spain with the same name, like Sancerre, Chablis etc. The main grape variety used is Tempranillo, you might see this on a label when it’s not from such a prestigious region as Rioja. The great news is that you can buy really decent Rioja without spending a fortune, plus it’s easily to recognise and you’ll find it everywhere. And why does it go so well with slow-cooked lamb? Well, it tends to have a soft spicy vanilla quality with lashings of dried fruits and the right weight to be the perfect match to the meat. Look for a ‘Reserva’ or ‘Gran Reserva’ – this indicates how long the wine has spent in oak barrels (the latter being the longest) – the wine gets softer as it ages. If none of that makes sense, just trust me, I’m a professional.
If you’ve got family/in-laws to impress look for a Gran Reserva Rioja, and don’t necessarily be fooled by the gold netting on the bottle, this doesn’t always translate to a fancy wine. If you spend £10-15 you’re golden. All the major supermarkets and wine merchants have plenty to choose from.
Chocolate. The best thing about Easter. But tricky to match with wine. If you’re a lover of dark chocolate, match the bittersweet flavours with a rich and spicy Aussie Shiraz, you will feel very indulgent indeed but who cares, it’s Easter. Fortified wines like Port can be great matches with chocolate, especially rich truffles, if you can find Tawny Port it will work even better, it’s less rich than the standard styles of Port and won’t overpower the chocolate.
And finally, my favourite drink to enjoy with rich chocolate, aged Pedro Ximenez sherry. I was at a dinner party the other week and to my absolute delight a bottle was brought out at with the dessert, not only was it delicious but my friends who’d never tried it loved it and couldn’t believe they’d never heard of it. It’s indulgent, rich, moreish and possibly the only wine I actually sip slowly. You can find it in any supermarkets or wine merchants, it might have the abbreviation, PX on the label too. Buy a bottle and it will change your life, I promise.
Have a great weekend, drink plenty of great wine and if anyone’s thinking of doing an Easter egg hunt.. just tell me where and when, I’m totally there.