Spring has sprung (kind of!) and Easter time is almost here.
The first bank holiday of the year always feels like a fantastic opportunity to get together with friends and family, enjoy some good food and hopefully a drink or two in the sunshine.
Photo credit @dineinthelakes
There are lots of traditions around the foods we eat at this time of year, so we thought we'd put together some of our favourite wine pairings for Easter if you're hosting friends, family or just having a Good Friday chippy tea on the sofa. We're also partial to a chocolate egg or two, so it's only right to throw in a chocolate pairing - although my Easter eggs don't tend to make it to the actual weekend!
I started to dig into some traditions for Good Friday beyond the usual fish for supper which we'll get to shortly, and one which stood out to me was an apparent custom to spend the day planting crops and vegetables. Anything planted on Good Friday is sure to grow now we're into better weather and according to tradition in Ireland, the farmers are particularly busy on this day planting all of the potatoes for the season (which is coined 'putting down the early pot').
Ok so the important stuff. If you're going down the Good Friday fish route, for me Fish and chips is a must in some shape or form - whether you brave the queues at your local, go homemade or go fancy with a trip to your local fishmonger. The wine pairing possibilities are vast.
For me, I like to start the bank holiday weekend with a bang - a trip to the chippy ('fish, chips & mushy peas twice please') and a bottle of champagne. Deep fried anything and champagne is a dream tbh, but freshly pan-fried flakey cod just does the business.
I think it's great to have champagne outside of just birthdays, weddings or big celebrations - it really is such an exciting part of the wine world and although the price tag means it's certainly a treat, it's always worthwhile. I'm going for our wonderful vintage grower champagne from Lete-Vautrain, the Grand Millesime Brut 2013 is fantastic value for a wine which has spent 6 years ageing on the lees. It has great depth and buttery texture with brioche, almond and hazelnut flavours coming through. Produced from a small 8 hectare estate which has been producing wine since the 60s, they know a thing or two about how it's done.
Another option which should be championed is Cornish line-caught mackerel. One of the most sustainable types of fish available to us here in the UK, it's incredibly versatile and often overlooked. Jamie Oliver has a recipe with a new potato salad which sounds great and would work perfectly with a crisp, refreshing white wine which has enough acidity to stand up to the oily fish. Here I'd go for something from the Loire valley, such as Emile Balland's wonderful Sauvignon blanc 'Les Beaux Jours'. This is also great with any asparagus based dishes you may be cooking as the first of the season has started to arrive.
There are lots of other foods eaten over spring time and of course one of the stars is British lamb, which has been a staple of this country's farming since the Roman times. There are some truly fantastic butchers up and down the country working with great farmers and championing great produce - and great produce should be paired with great wine too.
Spring lamb is delicate and served up slightly pink, so when picking your pairing here you aren't going to want to go for a really heavy red with lots of tannins. Going for a vibrant pinot noir would be my choice, with its juicy red fruits, light tannins, fresh acidity and a hint of savoury spice which you can find really works well. The Hawksdrift Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand fits the bill perfectly, full of ripe strawberry and red cherry fruit but with layers of dried herbs and a savoury, charcuterie character on the finish. This would work great with a leg of lamb.
If you are keen to go for a bigger, richer red, then you'll want to think about a different cut. A lamb shoulder which has been slowly braised so the fat melts in your mouth with a rich red wine jus is where you can bring out the big guns. Bordeaux or Chiantiare great pairings here, but for me the classic is Rioja. I'd go with the Luis Canas, Rioja Crianza. This is a proper crowd pleaser - dense red fruits, juicy plums and red cherries with a good lick of oak and balsamic, rounded off with plush tannins that just go on for an age. This has more than enough weight to balance out the richness of the sauce and melt-in-your-mouth braised lamb.
Another option with lamb depends a little more on the weather and how hardcore you are with charcoal. Northern Rhone Syrah and barbequed lamb really hits the spot. That intense pure dark cherry fruit and peppery spice works perfectly with the smokey lamb. In this instance the Yann Chave, Crozes-Hermitage would be a great option. I know Nic, Reserve's Wine Buyer, adores the wines from the Northern Rhone and often goes down this route when pairing with lamb.
If white's more your thing, then a great option is this Painted Wolf, Pictus VI Chenin blanc. This will match up great with a variety of dishes. If you were going for a traditional honey glaze roast ham or something like salmon en croute, the rich, ripe peach and apricot fruit with its creamy texture would work perfectly.
For a veggie feast, something like this beetroot and red onion tarte tatin from BBC good food looks incredible and would work perfectly with the vibrant, juicy fruits and light tannins of the Uva Non Grata Gamay. Also as mentioned briefly at the start, asparagus is back in season and absolutely loves being paired with one of the most popular white grape varieties out there - Sauvignon blanc. The key here is crisp, dry white wine with good acidity and no oak to balance the freshness of the Asparagus. France' Loire Valley is top of my list, so maybe a Sancerre or the 'Les Beaux Jours' I mentioned earlier. Also Iona Sophie T'Blanche from South Africa is a banger.
So finally, we make it to the chocolate eggs...
There's only one really winner here - Tawny port, specifically Niepoort, Tawny Dee. With an average age of three and a half years, it still has plenty of luscious fruit, delicate nutty aromas and hints of dried raisin, making it a totally spot-on pairing for milk chocolate.
You can check out all of our favourite Easter wines in our Spring collection here.