Traditional Easter fare is pretty limited, but still offers both the sweet and the savoury – and the prospect of choosing wines to go with each.
Seasonal sweet things include such goodies as simnel cake, Easter biscuits, hot cross buns and, of course, Easter eggs.
Years ago, the eggs were the natural sort, straight from the hens, with brightly-painted shells, but these days we go in for lavish confectionery.
The savoury centres on one particular dish for dinner – roast spring lamb.
This has been the natural choice for generations, simply because Easter coincides with the spring season.
I am recommending a few sound red wines from South America and Australia to accompany the lamb, including a particularly stunning one from Chile, and, elsewhere on the page, a couple of my favourite ports to sip with the choccy, or on their own.
But first things first, and before we get to the main course and the sweet things, it’s worth coming up with a wine ideal for either an aperitif or to enjoy with pre-dinner nibbles.
Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc
An offering from Chile’s top producer is crisp, complex and mouthwatering – Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc Aconcagua Costa 2013 (13 per cent, £13.99, Waitrose, www.winedirect.co.uk).
Light greeny-gold in colour, this has aromatic reminders of grass, citrus and gooseberries, and a nice acidity.
The wine was allowed to rest on the lees for three months.
If the nibbles include fishy bits and pieces like smoked salmon or prawns, this is the drink to wash them down.
Errazuriz The Blend Collection 2009
Probably the most impressive red in this small selection is Errazuriz The Blend Collection 2009 (14 per cent, £23.99, Waitrose, www.winedirect.co.uk), and like most good Chilean reds, it is the ideal companion for roast meat.
Winemaker Francisco Baetting puts together every year what he calls an ‘unconventional blend’ from the producer’s vineyards, with the aim of creating ‘a wine greater than the sum of its parts’.
The 2009 version is made up of 35 per cent mourvedre, 30 per cent syrah, 20 per cent petit verdot and 15 per cent grenache.
This is rich, powerful stuff, aged in French oak for 16 months, and packed with flavours of blueberries and spice. Recommended.
Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
Another lamb-friendly red from Chile is Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (14 per cent, Waitrose, www.winedirect.co.uk), which has a very deep, dark colour and is stashed with loads of complex blackcurrant, chocolate and spicy tastes.
This cries out for roast lamb, but I have to say it also goes very nicely with a slice of ripe, unpasteurised English Cheddar, or a good Camembert.
From Chile to Australia, and three more wines suggested for Easter consumption, including an impressive red – McGuigan The Shortlist GSM (grenache, shiraz and mourvedre) 2010 Barossa Valley (13 per cent, £15, Tesco Wine Online).
This is a strong, generously flavoured wine, and one assumes that with all the sheep they have Down Under, the Aussie experts will know how to produce one to go with lamb.
The Barossa Valley is famous for its intensely flavoured red grapes, and this product of them was matured in oak for 16 months.
Fulsome, up-front fruity flavours from the Aussie version of the three classic French grape varieties.
Turning again to the Easter pre-dinner tasty morsels, there are two other wines to consider.
McGuigan Classic The Semillon Blanc 2012 South East Australia (12 per cent, £7.99, Tesco and Sainsbury’s) was created by award-winning winemaker Neil McGuigan, and offers fresh, light tastes, with the accent on an appealing acidity and a particularly attractive floral nose.
McGuigan Reserve Chardonnay South Australia 2012 (13 per cent, £9.99, Tesco and Morrison’s) boasts apples, melons and citrus, and has a soft but full-bodied texture, and hints of oak.
Good for drinking on its own, or with savoury nibbles.
Port is the ideal adult accompaniment for chocolate and other Easter sweet things like the marzipan and icing-encased simnel cake, with its richly fruity interior.
Some people argue in favour of red wine to go with chocolate, but I think there’s nothing better than a glass of port, and I enjoy one even more myself, not having a sweet tooth, with a few nuts or a bit of nice cheese.
In recent times, port has shed its image as a tipple for red-faced old men with gout, and come into its own as a civilised all-year-round drink which really comes into its own at Easter and Christmas.
One of my favourites is Taylor’s ten-year-old Tawny (20 per cent, £23, Majestic, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s, Tesco and Waitrose).
This takes its distinctive, amber tiger’s eye colour from the decade of ageing in oak casks.
There are mellow, stylish, rich aromas which should delight everyone at the dinner table except for hardened teetotallers, and the port doesn’t need to be decanted.
I also recommend Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port 2001 (20 per cent, £30, Majestic, Waitrose).
This boasts deep plum, blackberry and blackcurrant flavours, and the aroma has a whiff of violets in it.
The 2001 vintage has been noted for its particularly lovely qualities. Like all vintage ports, it should be decanted before serving.