Out of interest 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. 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 (hopefully) the English asparagus season and the arrival of Jersey Royal new potatoes to take two examples. 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 am focusing on the seasonal Easter favourites (and personal highlights) and have sieved through the Vino Gusto list to recommend a mix of wines to match these traditional fares.
Crisp, dry white – ideal with lighter fish dishes and shellfish – this Gascogne from the Duffour family in southwest France is absolutely spot on with crisp, zesty, citrus fruit, lighter body and no oak
Rosé – perfect with oilier fish – Rioja (mainly red as you know) also makes some delicious rosé wines this example from Gonzalo Gonzalo, 'Gran Cerdo' is made from the Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache) grapes – lovely strawberry fruits and enough body to work with oily fish
Fuller, richer Chardonnay – ideal with fish cooked with a butter sauce this South African example from Jordan is top notch barrel fermented, creamy with notes of peach, citrus, and butter – but above all well balanced, nothing heavy
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 with mushrooms, or a courgette, fennel, leek, and pine nuts combination. Or always a good combination beetroot and goat’s cheese with walnuts. 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. So, I am going to focus on Viognier and Pinot Noir with an interesting twist with a lovely rosé from Italy. But please feel free to substitute the Viognier with a Sauvignon Blanc if you are a big fan of that variety.
Viognier – South of France – Baron de Badassière – an absolute steal for the price nicely rich and textured stone fruits flavours – more power than your Sauvignon - ideal with asparagus and for richer and maybe roasted veggie dishes
Primitivo Rosé from Puglia – San Marzano – another rosé this time a richer, creamier stye of rosé with bold soft red fruits and a nice texture – good with the vegetable risotto for example
Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Akitu Central Otago - an elegant style with bright cherry and red berry fruits and medium body – 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.
Malbec from Argentina – Matias Riccitelli Mendoza - this Malbec has intense black fruits, a peppery spice edge, and great freshness and will “cut through” the lamb perfectly
Chianti Classico from Tuscany – Fontodi – 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.
Rioja from Spain – Ondarre Gran Reserva - 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 dry white, and a light red. And not forgetting chocolate (egg) there is fine sweet wine below which works brilliantly with this challenging food item.
Sparkling Rosé Brut NV from New Zealand – Akarua Central Otago New Zealand – excellent New World bottle fermented sparkling wine (Pinot Noir & Chardonnay blend) creamy, toasty and vibrantly fruity – great party wine and apéritif style.
Crisp, dry unoaked white from Portugal - Quinta Azevedo Vinho Verde Minho – something different lovely dry, crisp, clean, and light bodied style with elevated citrus fruits (Alvarinho is the same Portuguese grape as Albariño in Spain)
Light bodied, dry red wine from Italy – Valpolicella Allegrini Veneto – bright red cherry fruit, light tannins, and a juicy easy drinking style
Chocolate Suggestion: Stanon & Killeen Rutherglen Muscat – 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 (or a four day weekend). Perfect way to end the meal and the holiday.