Easter is a great time for a little self-indulgence – its origins were in a wild pagan festival to mark the end of winter and the start of spring and, let’s face it, this winter hasn’t been a lot of fun, has it? So, we all deserve a break for a family celebration and some nice food and drink.
While there are some foodie traditions at Easter – a leg of lamb or roast chicken for the table, chocolate eggs, and simnel cake for something sweet – there’s no pressure to conform.
But whatever you put on the table, whether it’s a full blown three-course lunch, a nice brunch, hot cross buns or indulgent chocolate treats (why should the kids get all the fun?), you’ll need to think carefully about your wines to make sure you have the right matches for every meal or morsel.
So, having tried and tested a wide range of wines with some popular Easter foodstuffs, here are the IndyBest top-rated wines for Easter.
We assembled a diverse range of wines for all occasions, casual and more elaborate, that might present themselves over a long Easter weekend, and tasted them with an array of food – from nibbles to a slow-cooked lamb shoulder and, of course, some chocolate. We made sure the sherry, champagne, whites and dessert wines were properly chilled, and the reds uncorked and aired.
Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but as a centrepiece celebration wine for a special Easter lunch, this is hard to beat. It has been something of a slow burn in the wake of our domestic sparkling but it’s long been an aspiration of this country’s winemakers, convinced that, in some areas, we had the right soil and climate, combined with growing expertise, to make brilliant English pinot noir. This is a benchmark example from the relatively new Oastbrook Estate in East Sussex. Gorgeously fresh, with bright, crisp, summer red fruits, very typical hints of toast, earth and spice and a long complex finish. A classy and elegant wine for lamb, duck or chicken and, served cool, it’s a match for substantial fish dishes, particularly a tuna steak.
Buy now £32.00, Oastbrook.com
Spring is definitely the start of the dry sherry season and an aperitif of a chilled manzanilla is a lovely way to kick off an Easter Day meal, or any meal, for that matter. This 500ml bottle from a renowned producer is a good value size. Wonderfully bone dry and refreshing, with delicate citrus and light nutty notes that tingle and enliven the palate. It is best sipped with a few salty nibbles, such as anchovies, almonds, olives or some slices of Serrano ham on tomato bread, as they do in Spain.
Buy now £8.50, Sainsburys.co.uk
Yes, of course, you can opt for the big and reliable champagne brands that crowd the supermarket shelves – I’m sure you know who we are talking about – but for serious individuality it’s important to look elsewhere, such as this gorgeous premier cru offering from the House of Cattier, which has been growing champagne grapes since the early 17th century in the heart of the prestigious Terroir of Montagne de Reims, and therefore can be deemed to know its stuff. This has classic flavours of citrus, apple, pears and a hint of brioche – beautiful sipped on its own or with smoked salmon for a special brunch.
Buy now £39.99, Majestic.co.uk
This stunning gem comes from M&S’s excellent Found range of well-priced wines from less-well-known grapes or areas – in this case, two indigenous grapes combine in a bottle from the Peloponnese region of mainland Greece. Gorgeous floral aromas lead to tangy flavours of limes and lemons, with just a hint of lychees and a dry, full finish. A lovely wine for just sipping but brilliant with canapes, there’s just enough aromatic roundness here to match a hot cross bun.
Buy now £8.50, Marksandspencer.com
Former rugby player Gerard Bertrand is a stand-out star of southern French winemaking and produces a wide range of excellent wines, from budget to high end, with an emphasis on sustainability and organic production. This sumptuous chardonnay demonstrates that not all great chardonnay stems from Burgundy, and its label pays homage to the founding date of the fabulous walled city of Carcassonne, not far from where these grapes were grown. This wine has lovely, mouth-filling flavours of white peaches and citrus, supplemented by a touch of cream and very slight hint of spice: perfect with shellfish and substantial fish dishes – and excellent value for the price.
Buy now £12.00, Tesco.com
Wine making in the Lebanon goes back to the Phoenicians, was celebrated by the Romans and Greeks with a wine cult in the Bekaa Valley and has survived decades of war and conflict. Too few of their wines reach our shores and even fewer whites – this wine from the Kasara estate in the Bekaa should therefore be treasured and celebrated. While made from well known varieties of sauvignon, semillion and chardonnay, it is more than the sum of its parts, with distinct hints of rose petal and mountain herbs underpinning the crisp but creamy, fulsome flavours of these three grapes. A great talking point and a lovely wine for any fish or vegetable dishes, while being full-bodied enough to match chicken and white meats.
Buy now £16.95, Strictlywine.co.uk
This South African bottle is certainly an unusual wine, but we think it makes for a rather stunning combination with any kind of dessert. It’s especially good with that symbol of Easter, chocolate – whether it’s a luxurious chocolate cake or mousse or the remains of those eggs you bought for the kids. Muskadel is the Afrikaans name for the rare red variety of the muscat grape, which is used to make sweet wines, and is fortified with grape spirit, such as port or sherry. It is not massively sweet and sticky, like some dessert wines, but lighter and cleaner on the palate, with zingy red fruit flavours. As a bonus, it will keep for many weeks once opened.
Buy now £12.50, Thewinesociety.com
This is relatively expensive for an Aldi wine, but still punches well above its weight for the price – finding an everyday claret at around £10 is very difficult. A new addition to the Aldi range, It hails from a long-established chateau in the Côtes Du Blaye, one of the lesser known appellations of the Bordeaux region but, like others fringe areas, one from which terrific bargains such as this might be found.
Made in a good vintage year, mostly from merlot grapes, this has complexity from some bottle age and you will find the restrained, classic flavours of cedar, tobacco, dark plums and blueberries. A great all-round red for Easter, easily paired with a variety of foods, red or white meats, main course vegetable dishes and cheeses… and it would also be great with a chocolate dessert.
The wine is available from 27 March in store and through click and collect.
Buy now £9.99, Aldi.co.uk
Whether it’s a champagne brunch, a chilled sherry to accompany some snacks or something special to complement a sit-down, three-course Easter meal, there are wines here for everyone and at a range of price points. We particularly like the Lebanese Ksara white, which has a real sense of the Middle East about it; the Aldi Chateau Perenne is a terrific bargain and the Muskadel a rarity and one of the few wines that work well with chocolate. But for sheer quality, the English pinot noir is a magnificent statement of the increasing abilities of our own domestic winemakers to produce great wines and is our IndyBest top wine overall for Easter.
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