First published in The Irish Times on Saturday 13th April, 2019
Easter is my favourite annual festival. The longer, brighter days have arrived, the spring bulbs are in full bloom, and we have the promise of summer and sun ahead – even if they later fail to appear.
Easter is all about hope. It also allows me to indulge in some of my favourite wines. As lamb is one of the most wine-friendly meats of all, this is the time to show off your finest red wines. Tradition would dictate a Bordeaux or Rioja Reserva, but just about any red wine will taste better alongside roast lamb of some kind. However, it is worth trying to match your wine to the kind of lamb you will be serving.
There are few nicer ways to celebrate the arrival of spring than a roast of delicate, pink new season lamb with lots of herbs, served with new potatoes and fresh seasonal vegetables. Easter is late this year, so we may be able to find some asparagus and early salads. Here I would go for a Rioja, but a Crianza or an unoaked Joven in preference to a Reserva or Gran Reserva, or possibly a Cru Beaujolais.
I suspect many of us will be tucking in to a leg of lamb, medium rare, studded with garlic and rosemary. With this, a good Bordeaux, such as the two below, would be ideal, or a Rioja Reserva or Gran Reserva. A good Cabernet from California or Australia would also fit the bill nicely.
Lovers of Italian wine should had straight to Chianti Classico – the Isole e Olena, Fontodi or Monteraponi (€30 to €33 from independents), all tasted recently, would make the meal special. I am not a fan of cheap Chianti, though; I would much prefer the Sangiovese below, a much better bet if you’re looking for something less expensive.
You could go for any of the above options, but a lighter, fruitier wine, such a New World Pinot Noir, possibly from New Zealand, or Mencía from northern Spain, would be excellent.
Careful with the mint sauce, though: the combination of sweetness and acidity, especially vinegar, doesn’t do wine any favours. At least make sure you take a mouthful of meat between sauce and wine.
These days we are all familiar with spicier, Mediterranean-style lamb. If you have a vegetarian or vegan to please, serve your lamb with a Lebanese fattoush salad or go Moroccan, with spicy lamb served with roast peppers, aubergines and harissa-spiked hummus. This calls for bigger, spicier reds; think of a Languedoc, a southern Rhône or an Aussie Shiraz.
Château Janoy Bellevue 2017, Bordeaux
13.5%, €10.95 (down from €15.95)
A very enjoyable light, elegant Bordeaux with refined, cool plum fruits and well-integrated light tannins on the finish. Great value for money. Whelehans Wines, in Loughlinstown in Dublin, has the superior 2015 vintage of the same wine for €14.50.
From O’Briens, obrienswine.ie
Sangiovese 2017, IGT Marche, Cantina dei Colli Ripani (organic, vegan)
12.5%, €14.95 to 15.99
A very happy wine brimming with delicious juicy dark cherry fruits, and a little bit of grip on the finish to make it a perfect food wine. With lighter lamb dishes.
From La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow, latouchewines4u.ie; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6,greenmanwines.ie; the Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny,thelittlegreengrocer.ie; Kellys, Clontarf, Dublin, kellysofflicence.ie; Ardkeen Quality Foodstore, Waterford, Ardkeen.com.
Eggo Tinto de Tiza Malbec 2016, Zorzal
Your Easter egg? Concrete eggs are all the rage in wineries these days; this superb unoaked wine, with its fresh, deep, dark loganberry fruits, would go well with all sorts of roast lamb.
From La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow, latouchewines4u.ie; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; Clontarf Wines, Dublin, clontarfwines.ie.
Château Tour Sieujean 2012, Cru Bourgeois, Paulliac
Classic Bordeaux with developing notes of tobacco leaf and black pepper, cool blackcurrant fruits, and a long dry finish. Perfect for that posh Easter celebration.
From Whelehans Wines, Loughlinstown, Co Dublin whelehanswines.ie