Easter may not be accompanied by quite the same ballyhoo as Christmas, but for most people it is one of the great family celebrations of the year. Certainly the weather is better, with the promise of spring warmth and sunshine. Eating lamb at Easter is a Christian tradition going back centuries. As far as I can see, every wine-producing country in Europe celebrates with the paschal lamb, although Greece and other Orthodox countries celebrate a week or so later.
For wine lovers Easter also offers much more opportunity than Christmas, as a roast of lamb is one of the best partners for almost any red wine. This is the time to bring out your finest. I suspect most of us are guilty of keeping our special bottles for far too long, waiting for that perfect occasion, until they are way past their best, so prevaricate no longer: bring out that bottle you were given as a thank you all those years ago and share it with people you love. If you don’t have a cellar full of mature wine don’t worry: virtually any medium- to full-bodied red wine will do perfectly. In fact it will taste a lot better alongside the lamb.
Francophiles will head straight for Bordeaux and the finest claret they can afford. But a fine Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia, California or Chile will do equally well. In Spain, Rioja would be the traditional choice, especially if you prefer more elegant wines, but a full-bodied Ribera del Duero is one of the great matches for lamb flavoured with rosemary and garlic.
Moving on to Italy, a good Chianti Classico would be my first choice, although the Barbera d’Alba that is one of today’s Bottles of the Week would also be pretty good. If you intend to barbecue your leg or shoulder of lamb, the more robust flavours and structure of a Malbec from Argentina might be called for.
We are likely to have a vegetarian at our table this Easter, so I intend to roast some Mediterranean vegetables and serve them with a black-olive-tapenade-style dressing. This, I suspect, would go nicely with today’s Chianti Classico, as would any pasta bake or dish based on pulses and beans – the Tuscans, after all, are known as Mangiafagioli, or Bean Eaters.
As this is a celebration take a little care. Even the most modest wine will taste far better when served with a bit of style. Pour your wine into your finest decanter and get out your best glasses. If you are bringing out an elderly bottle it may have thrown some sediment, so stand it upright for 24 hours before decanting.
Bottles of the Week
Château Turcaud 2015, Bordeaux 13%, €15.95
Ripe, rounded blackcurrant fruits brought to life by a subtle acidity. Elegant and refined, with light tannins on the dry finish. A perfect partner for your roast lamb.
From Le Caveau, Kilkenny; 64 Wine, Glenageary, Co Dublin; Martins, Clontarf, Dublin 3; Green Man, Terenure, Dublin 6; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3; World Wide Wines, Waterford; Fallon and Byrne, Dublin 2; Blackrock Cellars, Co Dublin; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2
Barbera d’Alba Fontanelle 2015, Ascheri 14.5%, €16.95 (down from €18.95)
Fragrant and refreshing, this exudes delicious ripe blackcurrant and cherry fruits, offset by a tangy acidity and just enough tannin to cut through the lamb.
From branches of O’Briens
Chianti Classico 2015, Casa Emma 13.5%, €19.95
Gorgeous, svelte ripe cherry and blackcurrant fruits with a savoury touch on the finish. A smooth, medium-bodied wine with good concentration of fruit. Perfect with Carmel Somers’s Ottoman lamb.
From Donnybrook Fair, Dublin 4
Martinez Lacuesta Rioja Crianza 13.5%, €20
A seductive wine, aromatic, harmonious and smooth, with ample red fruits overlaid with spice. Classic Rioja, medium-bodied, with all the components singing in unison. Heavenly with lamb.
From Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4; 64 Wine, Glasthule, Co Dublin