Christine Austin looks at the best wines to serve with a rack of lamb for an Easter Sunday to remember.
For those whose offspring have decided that they have had enough snow for this year, so they won’t be heading off to the slopes for the last ski of the season, there is a strong chance that they may park their feet under your table tomorrow. With that in mind, you probably already have a joint of lamb in the fridge and are planning on the best way to cook it. Different styles demand different flavours and I have been experimenting with wines to find the best match to your roast.
One of the easiest cuts is a rack of lamb, often stripped of most of its fat and needing just 20 minutes in a hot oven to be served pink in the middle and with the lightest, most delicate of lamb flavours. I love Pinot Noir with this and while I am always tempted by New Zealand Pinots, a good Burgundy often has the right lightness of touch and savoury complexity to go with this dish.
Head to Derventio in Castlegate, Malton, for a terrific range of wines from top producer Albert Bichot, which owns several important vineyards as well as making wines from across the region. The 2014 vintage was ripe and light so Bichot Côtes de Beaune 2014 (£16) has just the right balance of gentle red fruits and structure to cope with the roast.
If you can’t get to Derventio in time, since they shut at 11am on a Saturday, then Field & Fawcett in York, which stays open until 6pm, has the pure, elegant flavours of 2012 Savigny-les-Beaune from Benjamin Leroux (£29.95).
As an introduction to Pinot Noir from Burgundy, there is nothing better than Louis Latour’s Red Burgundy currently on offer at Waitrose, down from its regular £14.99 to £11.24 until April 17. This has all the right wild strawberry and redcurrant fruit with supple tannins and a long, gentle finish.
New Zealand Pinots are always near the top of my favourites list and for sheer value at just £6.99, the simple, fresh-tasting fruit of Aldi’s Exquisite Collection New Zealand Pinot Noir cannot be beaten. Since this is Easter lunch with perhaps far-flung family, perhaps it is worth stepping up in quality and depth of flavour with Marks & Spencer’s Craft 3 Pinot Noir from Marlborough (£13).
For larger family gatherings I usually favour a leg of lamb, rosemary and garlic-spiked and served still pink at the knuckle end, but crisp and full of dark caramelised flavours at the other. It needs longer in the oven than a rack of lamb and so there is time to put together all the family favourite roasties, Yorkshire pud, veg and gravy. With more flavour on the plate, you need more flavour in your glass and this is where Rioja shines.
Waitrose has the red berry and black cherry fruits and just the barest touch of oak in Beronia Rioja Crianza 2014, down from £11.49 to a bargain £7.65 until April 17. Slightly creamier with bramble-style fruit and with firmer tannins, CUNE Rioja Reserva 2013 is on offer at Majestic, down from £12.99 to £9.99 on a mix-six deal. Moving up in quality, Marqués de Murrieta Reserva 2013 (£14.99, Roberts & Speight, Beverley) is silky with aromatic red fruits and a long, complex finish.
For a flashback to how Rioja tasted decades ago, head to Viña Ardanza 2008 at Majestic, down from £25.99 to £19.99 on mix-six. This wine echoes the style of Rioja long before fruit came to the fore and so it revels in its delicate, sweet raspberry and red cherry notes, wrapped in gentle, old oak, and showing spice, earthy notes and supple tannins. This wine is ready now and will show off well against roast lamb, but it won’t come to any harm if you keep it for a few more years.
A few weekends ago I found a new recipe for lamb shoulder with Middle Eastern flavours of spice, spinach, raisins and pine nuts. This went down a storm with the assembled family but I made no attempt to present this feast in its pink state, heading straight to fully cooked and so my wine choice needed to be sufficiently robust to cope with the savoury meatiness.
Just for nostalgia, I decided to pour one of my last remaining bottles of the lost-contingent of mid-90s Clarets that somehow went astray during house renovations only to be rediscovered more than a decade later. 1996 Ch. Angludet did its best to stand up to the flavours on the plate and its silky complexity was a delight before and after the main dish. But the star of the show was Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 from Chile, down from £12 to £10 at Sainsbury’s. Its hearty big blackcurrant fruit with smooth, silky tannins and a warm, spice and chocolate finish was more than a match for the meat.
An alternative choice is Amy’s Blend 2016 from Western Australia which brings together the firm blackcurrant fruit of Cabernet Sauvignon with touches of spice from a splash of Malbec in the blend. Field & Fawcett has this at £16.35 and if you buy more than you need it will be drinking even better next Easter.
Whichever way you cook your lamb, go easy on the redcurrant jelly and certainly don’t let mint sauce go within a mile of your plate. The harsh flavours of vinegar and mint will drown all the gorgeous flavours of your meat and wine.
As a finale to the meal, a chocolate pud is essential at Easter. I still have some port leftover from Christmas and this is the time to get it poured alongside a rich chocolate mousse. If you don’t have any leftovers then Waitrose has the fabulous, deep-flavoured Warre’s Bottle-aged LBV, down from £24.99 to £19.99.
If you prefer to spend your afternoon with the fragments of an Easter egg then you will need a glass of wine to accompany it and Waitrose Domaine Pouderoux Maury Grande Reserve (£11.49) is full of delicious dark prune and figgy flavours.