Christine Austin comes up with the right combination for every possible meal over Easter – including the chocolate.
If the family has headed home for Easter to settle their feet under your table then you will need a fridge full of food and some good wines. Lamb is my favourite for Easter Sunday, but apparently not everyone agrees with me. Roast pork with plenty of crackling is a firm favourite in several households, while the real meaty flavours of a free range chicken just can’t be beaten for others.
Although pork is generally regarded as a white meat, by the time it has been roasted and the crackling given the full heat of the oven I really prefer a red. Something like a Côtes du Rhône is perfect where the fruit of the grape bolsters the meaty flavours and its dark, savoury complexity can cope with rosemary and garlic-studded roast potatoes.
I have a soft spot for Guigal’s Côtes du Rhône Villages, mainly because it provides fabulous flavour for money. With 50 per cent Syrah giving structure and peppery fruit, Grenache adding lighter raspberry notes and just a splash of Mourvèdre contributing those dark, chewy, savoury base-notes of flavour, it has the weight and power to cope with all the flavours on the plate. Waitrose has the 2010 vintage at £11.49 but Jamie Goodhart at Bon Coeur in Masham has a much better deal with a 12-bottle case of the same vintage at just £107.88 which works out at a bargain £8.99 a bottle.
This is a wine that will keep for the next three or four years, developing complexity and depth, so find a place to store a case and dip in from time to time.
Majestic currently has this wine at the same price – £8.99 and you just need to buy two bottles as part of your six-pack.
If you have roasted your pork with apples then a Riesling might just be the perfect match to cope with the fruit and acidity. Try the clean, clear, pink grapefruit and herbal notes in Cono Sur Reserva Riesling 2012 from the deep south of Chile. The Bio-Bio region is cool so the grapes ripen slowly developing refreshing flavours with minerally crunch. Like most Rieslings there is a slight hint of sweetness in the wine but it is so subtle that it will just balance the flavours of the apple sauce.
Pinot Noir is another favourite with both pork and chicken. I really like the red berry fruit and silky style of The Ned Waihopai River Pinot Noir 2012 from New Zealand (£14.99, Majestic) but this wine is often on special offer so it might be better to wait until the deals come round again. Meanwhile head to Sainsbury for their Taste the Difference Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012, New Zealand (£11) for lifted cherry fruit flavours and just a hint of spice.
While you are in Sainsbury, make sure you pick up a couple of bottles of Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2012, currently down from £7.79 to £5.49. This is the first rung on the Pinot Noir discovery ladder but it packs a lot of juicy strawberry fruit and goes remarkably well with mid-week suppers and late-night cold chicken sandwiches.
No Easter Day is complete without chocolate which may come in the form of Easter eggs, but can also be continued as a theme throughout the day with chocolate puddings providing lush rich flavours.
Start the day with a glass of Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Shiraz (£8.79 on offer, Waitrose) which peps up the tastebuds by being both red and fizzy, giving a roller-coaster of ripe plummy fruit and a touch of chocolate on the finish. It isn’t quite dry, but that means it combines well with all kinds of chocolate.
Chocolate also goes well with a smooth, lush, soft red wine such as Carmenère from Chile. With voluptuous ripe fruit and soft, ripe tannins it has all the right flavours and enough natural sweet taste, totally without sugar, to cope with a smooth chocolate tart or a sticky chocolate sauce. Try Santa Rita 120 Carmenère 2013 down from £8.99 to £6.99 at Majestic on multi-buy.
If you have not tried Tokaji before, now is the time to do so. This is a fabulous wine from Hungary, made from over-ripe grapes and matured in oak for years.
The quality is measured in puttonyos, which relates to the sweetness of the wine. The higher the number, the greater the wine and the bigger the price. As it ages Tokaji develops more concentrated, butterscotch and honey notes to the point where it becomes a dessert all by itself but it does go well with any kind of nutty, chocolate pud.
Head for Royal Tokaji Blue Label 5 Puttonyos Aszú 2008 Tokaji at Waitrose. It costs £12.29 for a tiny 25cl bottle, which is just the right size to share between two or even four careful drinkers, or you can keep a glass close at hand as you watch the afternoon movie with a box of chocolates for company.
While port and chocolate is well known as a pretty tasty combination, I actually prefer the intense flavours of a Bual Madeira to go with a classic, dark chocolate Easter egg. Halifax Wine Co stocks a fine range of Madeiras such as Barbeito five-year-old Boal (£11.95 for 50cl), but it is worth trading up to Blandy’s 10-year-old Boal for more complex, figgy fruit. This costs £18.50 for 500ml, and it will go well with a slice of Simnel cake too.
With St George’s day on its way it might be worth rolling the celebrations together with a bottle of English sparkling wine. Head to Weeton’s in Harrogate for Yorkshire’s own Leventhorpe Sparkler (£29.95) or try the crisp, clean, white floral-scented Chapel Down Vintage Reserve Brut from Kent (£20.99).