There are two ways of looking at Easter, I always feel: that it marks the start of spring, which is technically correct, or that it’s the last hurrah of winter, which may well be more appropriate this year, what with Easter being so early.
Wine-wise, that creates the dilemma of whether to go for wintry wines or lighter, more spring-like ones. There’s also the added complication of what you’re cooking, be that a traditional Easter lunch or something more exotic.
Personally, I tend towards the winter wine camp, at least when it comes to reds. Simple roast lamb, in particular, suits older vintages of European classics such as bordeaux, rioja and chianti, which don’t tend to sit quite as comfortably alongside more summery fare. If you’re making, say Moroccan-spiced lamb, however, I’d go for something bolder, such as the younger rioja in today’s recommendations or Aldi’s very good value Specially Selected GSM Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre 2019 (13.5%), a ripe, Côtes du Rhône-style red that punches way above its £5.99 price tag.
Roast chicken, too, could go either way. Serve it with roasties, root veg and gravy, and you’re talking about a hearty red. Give it a lemony stuffing, with some new season’s jersey royals and spring veg on the side, on the other hand, and I’d go for a fresh-tasting white such as the Puglian one below, which would also work with an Easter frittata. Or you could splurge on a silky red burgundy such as Château de Marsannay’s pretty Marsannay Rouge 2017 (£166.07 for a case of six, plus £18 delivery, Justerini & Brooks; 13.5%)
Eggs generally feature on the Easter menu in one form or another. If we’re talking brunch, I’d go for fizz, although the very smart Ashling Park sparkling wine below perhaps deserves something a bit more flashy such as lobster, whereas if they’re of the chocolate variety, you need something sweet. I’m not a huge fan of light, lemony dessert wines with chocolate, and am of the mind that sweet red wines such as the Greek Mavrodaphne of Patras go so much better (think black forest gateau); Waitrose has one for just £6.95.
Underrated marsala works well with Easter eggs, too, especially with milk chocolate ones (not that I ever broke bits off of my kids’ Easter eggs to test the theory). Just make sure you buy the dolce (sweet) rather than the secco (dry) style because Easter is all about sweetness. That, at least, we can all agree on.
Five cracking wines for Easter
M&S No 21 Lomas del Marques Rioja Reserva 2014
£9 Marks & Spencer and Ocado, 13.5%. Smooth, ripe, plummy and brilliant value. Perfect for lamb – rioja always is – but would work with an Easter turkey, too.
Paolo Leo Renée Bianco Organic2019
£8.99 (on mix-six) Majestic, 12.5%. Smooth, adapts-to-all-weathers Puglian white. Fresher than a chardonnay, softer than a sauvignon. Drink with simply grilled fish or fish pie.
Château Beaumont Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois 2016
£16 selected Co-ops, 13.5%. Classy claret, all the more satisfyingly so because it’s up to a fiver more expensive elsewhere. Drink with for roast beef or lamb.
Ashling Park Cuvée NV
Acón Roble Tempranillo 2018
£12.40 Tanners, or £11 if you buy three or more, 14.5%. This young Spanish red is so smooth and ripe, it could easily be Argentinian. Would be great for an early barbecue or with a dark chocolate Easter egg (I checked by trying it with an 80% chocolate bar).
• For more by Fiona Beckett, go to matchingfoodandwine.com