Spring has very nearly sprung and it’ll soon be time to start arranging fun social events such as Easter lunches and spring picnics.
Of course, the socialising becomes even more fun with the introduction of some good wines and it’s never too soon to start considering the bottles that will be accompanying the spring feasts.
Let’s start with Easter lunches. Unlike Christmas dinner, there’s a nice flexibility to Easter food and, while many families will doubtless have their own traditions regarding what is served, the culinary rules are not too rigid, which means hosts are able to play with seasonal foods and think of interesting accompanying wines.
The obvious meat choice for Easter lunches is spring lamb, which can be served as a traditional roast with seasonal vegetables, or in a stew or other dish. However you choose to serve your lamb, the fact remains that this is a strongly flavoured meat that can easily overwhelm a timid bottle of red wine. Most white wine simply becomes a little insipid when served with lamb, so red wine is indeed the obvious choice – and the bolshier the better.
Lamb is one of the few meats that can stand its ground alongside a powerful red wine such as Zinfandel for example and complex yet fruity wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot also tend to be good options. A rich Burgundy red wine will not be an unpopular choice either and the rustic taste of accompanying dishes such as potatoes and green beans will work well with any of these choices.
Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule dictating that lamb and the trimmings has to be served at Easter lunch and there are plenty of people that swear by serving ham instead. If ham is your Easter meat of choice, this is where lighter wines begin to come into their own. White wine and rose are not so easily overwhelmed by this less heavily flavoured meat and in fact really heady and tannic red wines may overwhelm both the flavour of the ham itself and any subtleties of the glaze and trimmings.
A natural wine to serve with a ham-based Easter lunch is Pinot Noir, whose ripe berry and cherry flavours work wonderfully well as a contrast to the salty flavour of the meat itself.
A Pinot Noir also works well with vegetable-based dishes, ideal for vegetarians planning a meat-free Easter lunch and is a pleasantly quaffable wine that wouldn’t be a bad choice for a brunch pairing either.
If you’re not planning a formal Easter lunch but instead are cooking up plans for a fun spring picnic, lightness and ease of drinking really takes on significant importance. A warm spring day, the great outdoors and a picnic blanket laden with delicious nibbles calls for an easy drinking wine that is not too heavy in tannins. For those red wine fans who don’t consider rose wines to be a cop-out, they are an ideal picnic choice and a sparkling rose will deliver an extra dose of lively effervescence that will capture the spring mood just perfectly.
If you don’t want to go down the rose route, try to go for some of the less heavy and “challenging” red wines out there on the market. Unlike Easter lunch, spring picnics are not the best occasions for breaking out that bottle of 16 per cent Californian Zinfandel. If you’re serving light foods such as sandwiches, quiches, salads and fruits, you won’t want to overwhelm the subtle flavours with really heady wines. You may want to consider an Italian Pinot Noir, an Argentine Malbec or a Rioja, all of which deliver on the taste front without being so powerful that they render the food tasteless.
Speaking of taste, wine snobs will doubtless turn up their nose at the idea of serving a sparkling red wine, but they really can be excellent options for picnics.
The Australians have translated their ‘no worries’ attitude into fun, fruity and surprisingly good sparkling Shiraz and it is hard to think of a better red wine to accompany a fun spring picnic in the sun. There are even – dare I say it – some very good bottles of Lambrusco out there. Granted, it may be the red wine that is most associated with 1980s bad taste, but not all bottles of this much-maligned red wine deserve to be tarred with the same brush. A good bottle of this sparkling Italian wine can be surprisingly delicious and as prices tend to be very affordable, it’s well worth a gamble.
Image by willconley777.