Being less firmly rooted in food tradition than Christmas meals, Easter holiday lunches and dinners can be as simple and traditional or as experimental and imaginative as you choose. While it’s fine to play it safe with a roast lamb and spring vegetables, there’s plenty of scope for trying out new meal ideas, which means ample opportunity for showing a little imagination with your red wine choices.
With the Easter holidays falling later in the year than usual in 2011, there are abundant fresh vegetables to choose from when planning your Easter meal – excellent news for vegetarians or anybody catering for vegetarians over the festive period. Even the staple Easter lamb roast can be given a foodie makeover with the addition of an herb crust and red wine-braised spring vegetables, while spring leeks and other British garden vegetables are great ingredients for soups and starters.
The more adventurous you are planning to be with your Easter meals, the more adventurous you may want to be with your red wine choices. Forget the safe option of a dependable Pinot Noir or a Cabernet Sauvignon (although you might want to have a couple of bottles in reserve in case your more exotic red wine choices aren’t to everybody’s taste!) and think about those red wines that are a little more adventurous than your average bottle.
Another advantage to Easter falling later in the year than usual in 2011 is that there is a better than average chance of seeing reasonably good weather and you may want your wine choices to reflect this. For anyone planning lighter lunches, or even risking a picnic or barbeque instead of the traditional indoor lunch, sparkling red wine is an unusual option that will raise a few eyebrows but will hopefully prove to be a pleasant alternative to safer red wine options.
Sparkling red wine may get an automatic thumbs down from wine snobs, but there are some very good bottles on the market that will permanently banish all memories of sticky, icky 1980s fizzy wine confections.
While Italy is producing some very palatable Lambruscos (yes, sceptics – good Lambruscos do exist), the country that has really cornered the market on sparkling red wine is Australia, where the light, easy-drinking alternative to heady, heavy reds has been a real success in this land of sunshine, barbeques and outdoor eating and drinking. Sparkling Shiraz has become a quintessentially Australian tipple and can make an excellent and unusual companion to a light Easter lunch.
If sparkling red wine sounds like a step too far in the experimental wine stakes, how about sticking to the traditional style, but opting for wines from under-exploited territories?
One red wine that is something of a ‘love it or loathe it’ experience is South African Pinotage, which is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes. This dark red wine is something of an acquired taste, but those who do have a taste for it tend to become avid fans of the unusual taste. If you do serve Pinotage at your Easter meal, be sure to have a safer option in reserve in case it doesn’t appeal to everybody – at the very least, it’s bound to be a talking point and you may well find that your guests fall firmly into the ‘love it’ camp.
At the other end of the taste spectrum is Dolcetto – an Italian red that remains something of a mystery to many wine enthusiasts. Produced in the acclaimed Piedmont region, famed for its Barolos, Dolcetto is a light, easy-drinking wine that is meant for drinking young rather than for cellaring and is another fresh, fruity option that will make a perfect companion to lighter lunches and outdoor meals.
Less close to home, Brazil is beginning to produce some really excellent red wines. While the country has traditionally been seen as something of a poor cousin to Argentina and Chile, it is now starting to find its wine-making feet, with the best bottles hailing not from the hot, sticky north of the country but from the cooler, mountainous south, with the Serra Guacha region of Rio Grande do Sul increasingly producing some very palatable bottles.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from this region are both good options, with the large Salton winery producing some good, if unspectacular bottles, while artisan producers are making some truly fine bottles. If the Argentinean Malbec and Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon are beginning to look a little old hat, branching out into Brazilian territory can be a rewarding experience.
Image by bigbirdz.