Wine for Easter. From roast lamb to hot cross buns (not forgetting all of the chocolate in between) it can be difficult to know which wines to choose. But with Easter just around the corner, we’ve put together a guide to help make things a little easier for you.
Christmas may be nothing but a distant memory, but Easter provides the perfect opportunity to indulge once again. We’re looking forward to gathering with friends and family and enjoying some excellent food and fabulous wine. With Spring now here (at last!) it’s time to embrace everything that the new season brings, including the wine!
Easter helps to kick off the new season and the great thing about it is that the feast lasts for the whole of the Easter weekend. But food can only be so good in the absence of great wine. So that’s where we come in. Here’s our guide to the best wine for Easter, from the main feast to the tricky task of pairing wine and chocolate.
Wine for Easter: The Main Event
Lamb is the traditional meat of choice for the Easter feast. However, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to choosing the right wine to serve with it. It’s all dependent on the type of lamb you choose and the way that you cook it.
Young Lamb – Served Pink
You wouldn’t serve a winter stew with a light white wine or a spring salad with a glass of heavy red. The delicate flavours of young lamb need a lighter red to compliment them. Reduce the risk of overpowering the meat by seeking out a Pinot Noir from a cooler climate.
We recommend choosing a bottle from Burgundy, the Chilean Leyda Valley, New Zealand or South Africa. Pinot Noir is a lighter and fruiter red, often with herbaceous notes. The taste balances perfectly with the aromatic and delicate flavours of the lamb.
Alternatively, you could treat yourself to a rich rosé Champagne or try a weighty dry rosé from the South of France. The ripe fruit and acidity cuts perfectly through the fattiness of the lamb and will add an extra touch of indulgence to your Easter feast!
Roast Lamb – Medium to Well Done
Thanks to the extra cooking time, this popular cooking style of lamb can handle fuller red wines. Not only will the tannins in the wine make the meat feel more tender, the flavours of them will enhance the taste of the meat too.
With rich fruit flavours and a touch of spiciness and oak, the best choice here is a Cabernet Sauvignon. Perhaps the best region to choose from is Bordeaux, but there are also some great offerings from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Chile.
Alternatively, we’d recommend a mellow Rioja or spicy Grenache. With good tannins, indulgent fruit flavours and smoothness on the palate, these wines will go down beautifully alongside roast lamb.
Slow Roasted or Shoulder of Lamb
When opting for a shoulder of lamb, it’s important to choose a wine to compliment the fattiness of the meat. Although the fat adds intense flavour, if you don’t choose the correct wine to go with then there’ll be a clash on the palate. The aim here is to focus on bringing out the secondary flavours of the meat.
The gamey flavours of slow roasted lamb can be tempered with a heavy punch of tannins and acidity. You’ll want to choose a wine which is more on the savoury side, lightly spiced and perhaps even smokey. Think gamey Rhône, Tempranillo and Chianti – something sumptuous with richness and bold red fruits!
Opting for Fish or a Vegetarian Option?
Of course, lamb won’t be the choice for everyone. If you’re serving fish or a vegetarian option then we’ve got you covered here too. Salmon is always popular, whilst vegetarians are spoiled for choice as now’s the time to utilise all of those delicious spring vegetables.
If you like a glass of something sparkling then why not treat yourself and your guests to some Champagne or English sparkling wine. With fresh citrus flavours and plenty of bubbles, both options will help to cut through any richness in your dishes and create a harmonious pairing.
Alternatively, a cold crisp Chablis or Riesling will also lend itself well to pescetarian or vegetarian dishes. The green apple and mineral flavours of Chablis will help to balance the fattiness of salmon or a good hollandaise sauce. A drier Riesling with tropical fruit flavours will also go beautifully with dishes that are light and simple.
Hot Cross Buns
Easter would not be complete without hot cross buns! A cup of tea may be the usual accompaniment but there’s something extra special about enjoying one with wine. With the sweetness of raisins and sultanas, plus comforting cinnamon and nutmeg, a rich and sweet muscat makes the perfect companion.
Lusciously sweet and decadent, muscat compliments the flavours of hot cross buns and makes them taste luxurious. You can also trying serving muscat with Simnel cake too.
Wine for Easter: Pairing Wine and Chocolate
Pairing wine with chocolate is notoriously difficult due to the complexities and variations of the UK’s favourite sweet treat. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Here are some important things to remember when pairing wine and chocolate:
- Chocolate contains tannins too: Dark chocolate especially, contains tannins. This means that you want to avoid tannin-heavy red wines if you’re chocolate of choice is on the darker end of the spectrum.
- Cocoa beans are fruity: This means that chocolate has the potential to pair very nicely with fruity red wine.
- Dark chocolate does not get along with sweet wines: Although dark chocolate doesn’t go well with tannin-heavy wines, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t opt for a wine that’s heavy.
- Match the weight of the wine and chocolate: If your chocolate is heavy on the palate then you want to choose a wine that will match it on the same level.
Of course, if you’re anything like us then you’ll have a myriad of white, milk and dark chocolate of eggs. So let’s break it down a little more:
Although many chocolate connoisseurs would argue that white chocolate isn’t real chocolate, that doesn’t stop it from being a popular choice for Easter. White chocolate doesn’t actually include any cocoa, just cocoa fat. This means that it’s one of the more versatile types of chocolate to pair with wine.
White chocolate is often higher in fat and sugar than other types of chocolate. Whilst this makes it beautifully rich and creamy, it also means that acidity is key when choosing a wine to go with it. The acidity helps to cut through the sweetness and results in some beautiful flavour profiles.
Our top choices for pairing wine with white chocolate are:
- Moscato d’Asti – a big fluffy blanket: the perfect choice for anyone who fancies some sparkles for Easter. This wine will provide an extra touch of creaminess, whilst the acidity will cut through the richness of the chocolate.
- Pinot Noir – strawberries and cream: you may be surprised to hear it but Pinot Noir can go fabulously well with white chocolate. The cocoa fat in the white chocolate helps to enhance the red fruit flavours in the wine, providing a beautiful melding of sweetness and fruits.
- Rosé Port – the ‘out-there’ choice: traditional port may not be for everyone, but rosé port is much more accessible and packs much less of a punch. A fruity choice with aromas of grapefruit, berry and honey, it works nicely with the flavours of white chocolate.
The most popular chocolate choice of them all, from budget-friendly to luxury, we expect that most people will be enjoying some milk chocolate this Easter. With an excellent balance of cocoa, sugar, and cocoa fat, milk chocolate is possibly the easiest type of chocolate to pair with wine.
Luckily for you, this means that there’s plenty of options to choose from:
- Late-harvest red wines – smooth classics: think Syrah and late-harvest Pinot Noir. Sumptuous red fruit flavours, lighter body and a silky finish that matches wonderfully with the smoothness of milk chocolate.
- Light-bodied white wines – put some Spring in your step: creamy milk chocolate really works well with a light-bodied Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling. They work nicely with the mouthfeel of the chocolate and their acidity creates clean yet sweet flavours.
- Ruby Port – a grown-up choice: as you move up the scale from white chocolate to milk chocolate, you can also progress from rosé port to ruby port. Choose this if you want a chocolate experience with some spicy warmth and berry flavours.
From the increasing popularity of veganism to those who are dairy intolerant, there are a huge number of dark chocolate options available this Easter. Ranging from a modest 35% up to a whopping 99% cocoa solids, dark chocolate often provides the most nuanced flavours and a broad range of bitterness and sweetness.
It’s really important that you consider the flavours, especially the bitterness, of your dark chocolate before choosing a wine to go with it:
- Zinfandel – dense and spicy: with a full body and intense flavour, Zinfandel knows how to handle dark chocolate. You’ll find that some Zinfandels even have hints of chocolate too, which combined with their dense fruit and spice flavours make them a solid pairing with a hunk of the dark stuff.
- Pinot Noir or Merlot – the ‘medium-ground’ red: if you’re opting for a 55% dark chocolate then both of these wines make perfect companions. With juicy fruits and just the right amount of heaviness, they’re perfect for sipping on whilst cracking in to your dark chocolate Easter eggs
- Cabernet Sauvignon – full-bodied and fabulous: with just the right amount of tannins and plenty of juicy black fruit, if you’re planning on eating roast lamb and dark chocolate this Easter then make sure to stock up on plenty of Cab Sauv!
Bring on the roast lamb and Easter eggs! Happy eating and drinking to all this Easter!