The Easter Table: what to drink with food this Easter weekend 

BY RODRIGO MAMMANA

Spring is in the air, and Easter marks a welcome change in the culinary landscape. From tender roasted lamb to vibrant spring vegetables, the table brims with fresh flavours.


The sight of a perfectly roasted lamb adorning the Easter table is a familiar tradition in the UK, one that transcends mere culinary delight. Its roots delve into both history and symbolism, weaving a fascinating narrative.


In the early days of Christianity, followers adopted the tradition of eating lamb during Easter, which coincided with the season when lambs were most plentiful. This custom reflects the reverence for Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” representing his sacrifice. Despite the introduction of other dishes like roast ham, roast lamb remains a cherished part of Easter celebrations in the UK, blending culinary enjoyment with rich historical and spiritual layers.


The good news for us, wine lovers, is that roasted lamb whilst already delicious is a fabulous food to pair and therefore enhance with wine! Easy to prepare, perfect when tender and succulent and enriched with a blend of rosemary, garlic, and thyme.


Due to the rich and complex flavours of the lamb, the perfect wine must have at least the same level of intensity, with ripe fruit and enough body. Don’t forget that acidity at the right level is essential to guarantee balance and harmony.


Luckily, there are plenty of wine regions which produce wines that go wonderfully with this dish, so I will focus here on three very classic ones: Tuscany, Rioja and Bordeaux. 


Tuscany: 

Famous for its great wines since the times of Etruscans, Tuscany treats food and wine very seriously. There, the Sangiovese grape reigns supreme, producing wines from the popular Chianti. Traditionally a medium-bodied wine with fresh acidity (which really enhances the flavours in food). A richer style in Nobile de Montepulciano also works well, and of course there are the more powerful and robust Brunellos from the hills of Montalcino.


Traditionally, the lamb in Tuscany consumed for Easter involves marinating the leg in a mixture of garlic, rosemary, lemon zest, and olive oil. After marinating, the lamb is gently roasted until it’s perfectly tender. A simple yet elegant method allows the natural flavours of the lamb to be complemented by the aromatic herbs and citrus notes from the lemon.  

 

Chianti, a wine known for its versatility, is the gateway to Tuscan wines. With a profile that ranges from fruity to floral, Chianti can be both light and complex. A perfect introduction is Tregole Chianti Classico 2020 – it exemplifies this category with its vibrant cherry notes and hints of earthy spice.

Moving south, we encounter Nobile de Montepulciano, a wine that begins to show more depth and structure. It’s here that the Sangiovese grape, locally known as Prugnolo Gentile, takes on a bolder character. The Talosa Nobile de Montepulciano Riserva 2017 will delight you with its rich plum and tobacco flavours, wrapped in a velvety texture that’s both elegant and assertive.

Finally, a Brunello of some note and the most robust and intense of the trio. Brunello demands attention with its powerful structure and concentrated flavours. A sip of Val di Suga “Poggio al Granchio” 2016 reveals layers of dark fruit, leather, and earthy notes, a testament to its extended maturation in oak and the full potential of the Sangiovese grape.

 


Bordeaux:

Bordeaux, needs little introduction, wine has been made here since the Roman era. The food is rustic, but often elevated and this is most definitely a region that takes food and wine seriously. The star of the Easter meal in Bordeaux is the Agneau de Pauillac, a special kind of lamb that’s famous for being tender and tasty, the meat being flavoured by the salt marshes on the banks of the Medoc. Still a big part of Easter celebrations in the region, this has been served to Kings & Queens.

 

If you want to make this dish at home, you can roast the lamb with garlic, butter, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. The meat pairs especially well with fresh spring vegetables such as asparagus, artichokes, and green beans, and you can add some fancy potatoes ‘Dauphines’ for an extra special touch.

 

The region’s signature grapes, Merlot (the protagonist on the right bank of the river) and Cabernet Sauvignon, the star on the left bank. The wines from the right bank tend to produce ripe red fruits and a richer mouthfeel, and the wines from the left bank more black fruits and robust tannins. Among these, two regions stand out for their distinctive wines: St Emilion and Margaux. 

St Emilion is a picturesque region with a palette of geological diversity. Here, the wines, primarily made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc, are known for their rich structure and deep fruit flavours. A glass of Chateau Montlisse 2015 will reveal a symphony of plum and red cherries and impressive complexity.  

Margaux, on the other hand, is elegance personified. The wines from this region, predominantly crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon, are celebrated for their supple, perfumed nature and the ability to age gracefully. The Chateau Angludet 2010 from a legendary vintage, is a testament to this, offering a delicate yet complex bouquet of aromas, silky tannins, and a lingering finish that speaks of the unique terroir of Margaux. 

Both regions offer a window into the heart of Bordeaux, with wines that capture the essence of their landscape and history.

 


In Spain, roasted lamb holds a special place in Easter celebrations, symbolizing a time of renewal and festivity. This tradition is elevated by pairing the meat with some of Spain’s finest wines.

Rioja:

In the heart of Spain, Rioja stands as a testament to the country’s rich winemaking tradition. The region is renowned for its Tempranillo grapes, which are the backbone of Rioja wines. Tempranillo, known for its thick skin, gives the wine its structure and ageing potential. The grape imparts flavours of plum and berries, with hints of tobacco and vanilla, especially when aged in oak barrels, a requirement in Rioja. The use of oak, either American with its pronounced vanilla and coconut flavours or French with its subtle spice notes, adds complexity to the wines and softens the tannins of the Tempranillo grape.

 

The traditional Rioja style is known for extended ageing in oak barrels, resulting in a wine that is light in colour with a delicate, almost ethereal quality. Modern styles, on the other hand, focus more on the fruit, with less oak ageing and a more intense colour and flavour. Both styles, however, offer a unique expression of the Tempranillo grape and the terroir of Rioja. An excellent example of the classic style is the Castillo de Mendoza Reserva 2017 which is matured for 36 months in barrel and bottle and is full of lush, velvety, bramble fruits and sweet spices.

Ribera del Duero:

Further west, Ribera del Duero is another region where the Tempranillo grape, locally known as Tinto Fino, thrives. The region’s high altitude and extreme temperatures result in wines with intense colour, robust tannins, and high acidity, making them excellent candidates for ageing. The wines of Ribera del Duero are known for their deep cherry-red colour, and complex aromas of dark fruit, with notes of toast, cocoa, and spices from oak ageing.

Despite the similarities in grape variety, the wines of Ribera del Duero are distinct from those of Rioja. They tend to be fuller-bodied, with a more opulent fruit character and a firmer tannic structure, like the juicy Carramimbre Altamimbre 2019. These wines are the perfect match for the rich flavours of roasted lamb, as they have the intensity to stand up to the meat while the high acidity refreshes the palate.

Both Rioja and Ribera del Duero offer unique expressions of the Tempranillo grape, each shaped by their distinct terroirs and winemaking traditions. Whether you prefer the elegance of Rioja or the intensity of Ribera del Duero, both regions produce wines that are a perfect match.

If you will be indulging in something other than lamb over the Easter weekend there are of course any number of pairings that work equally as well.

Butternut Squash Borek is a tasty option for those who prefer vegetarian alternatives. This dish originates from the Ottoman Empire and highlights the diverse culinary traditions of the area. Spiced squash and feta cheese is wrapped in buttery filo dough and baked until golden and crisp. It has a mix of sweet, savoury, and creamy tastes in a crunchy, flaky package.The richness of the dish needs a wine that can match them. A Condrieu, the most prestigious white wine appellation from the northern part of Rhone Valley, is a perfect match. Roland Grangier Condrieu “Les Terraces” 2022 is a full-bodied, rich and aromatic wine with notes of ripe apricot, peach, and gentle floral aromas. It pairs well with the savoury pastry and the wine’s acidity helps to balance the dish's heaviness.

Easter is a great time to indulge in both food and drink. However you choose to celebrate the bank holiday, we wish you a Happy Easter!