You know the question. Which came first... the chicken or the (chocolate) egg?
The answer? The Easter Bunny, of course! Trick question.
If you're going to celebrate Easter, you're probably going to need a few bottles of wine along the way.
Champagne cocktails, or just a simple Buck's Fizz might be a fun way to start the day instead of just fruit juice with breakfast. Try this with some French/Algerian "Mouna" (La Brioche de Pâques) flavoured with orange blossom and anise. A delicious way to wake up in the morning. Who needs an alarm clock?
"Wine O'Clock" is an important concept with the appropriate bottle for the time of day. We all know that many Brits don't need an excuse to consume too much alcohol, but it's not about quantity for you, is it? I hope not.
Easter is an important family occasion and should be treated as special, so as part of the celebration, let's concentrate our minds on having some memorable wine!
How do other countries use food and wine as part of their Easter event? Let's begin with Germany. There's no requirement for a Royal banquet (unless you've got "III" as part of your title), but on Good Friday it's always a fish based dish that's used. How about trying a creamy/cheesy salmon and spinach casserole with extra potato dumplings? (In German, Überbackener Lacks mit Spinat und Kartoffelklöße). It just roles off the tongue. Add a touch of dill and a sprinkling of nutmeg for spiciness and, if you enjoy just a hint of residual sweetness in your wine, a bottle of the fresh, light, new 2021 vintage Bernkasteler Lay Kabinett from Dr. Loosen. For a weightier (and drier) wine, go for the really special Guntrum Hipping which is spicy and has a leesy creaminess adding more texture on the palate. Now, at eight years' old, this bottle is beginning to develop more complex flavours, widening its appeal and broadening its food pairing options. Aged Riesling is just so good with food! Of course, now I've given the game away about the grape variety, you'll swap it for a Marlborough Sauvignon. Your loss!!!
At this time of year, especially if Easter is "late", the Germans will, given the chance, eat nothing but asparagus (the white version is preferred). Personally, I have experience of this as my first ever visit to a wine producing country occurred during the local "Asparagus Week" festivals. Everywhere I went the restaurant and hotel menus had been severely restricted to this one vegetable. Fine, if you like it and are happy with nothing else apart from bread rolls for a week! Include some with salmon (or other fish) with "Frankfurter Green Sauce" and have it for lunch on Good Friday.
If you don't like Riesling as much as I do, pair it with a dry Pinot Gris from Villa Wolf. Food presentation certainly has moved on a great deal from the 80's. A bowl of steamed/boiled asparagus with a glass of Pilsner lager, or the up-to-date 21st century version? I think I'm tempted to try the modern style!
Moving to Italy, there are many regional Easter favourites, but I like chicken, so a chicken cacciatore it is. Lots of herbs and garlic, black olives, peppers, tomatoes and, of course, tender pieces of chicken... all cooked in one pot in the oven. Just serve with your "happy" portion of carbs (pasta or potato) for an added layer of comfort. For the perfect wine match use any Chianti Classico, but if you've never tried a "Gran Selezione" level bottle, Easter Sunday is the day to splash out. The best I've ever tasted is the Castello di Fonterutoli by Mazzei with its dense, mineral rich palate of sour cherries and cassis. A fantastic wine which will enthral your taste buds. Decant it before drinking for maximum enjoyment with the chicken. The Italians do like their desserts, so you could choose a Limoncello Tiramisu, an Almond Ricotta cake, or custard filled Sicilian Pasticciotti pastries. Apart from Vin Santo and the occasional Moscato variant, there are few Italian dessert wines which make it to our shores. A pity.
But, I hear you cry, what about a roast leg/shoulder of lamb?
It's probably the most popular Easter main course in the UK and the "go to" wine has always been a Spanish Rioja. Judging by recent sales at Frazier's, Rioja is going to be on many a dinner table this Easter and its popularity shows no sign of waning. If you want to sample how the Spanish cook their version of roast lamb (Cordero Asado a la Castellana), get yourself some potatoes, onions and lots of garlic into a roasting tin. Cook it "well done", as, I hear the Spanish like it that way. Another popular option is to slow-roast a shoulder of lamb with butter beans.
If you're in Spain in the week before Easter, check out a local "Semana Santa" procession in the town and then dive into your roast lamb and bottle of Rioja. ¡Salud!
Well, you're now completely stuffed with the best there is in food and wine. What next? Cheese? There's always room for a slice or two. Funny, that!
Maybe it's time to bring out the Easter eggs and chocolates?
Something sweet to finish off the day is more appropriate, I think, so let's open up the "eggs" to celebrate new life (of course).
I'm going to be a bit radical for suggestions of dessert wines with Easter eggs. Two different versions of the Muscat grape variety. One from Rustenberg in South Africa (Red Muscadel) and the other from California's Quady (Black Muscat). Both are actually fortified like port, but to a much lower alcohol level, giving a lighter, fresher taste.
Quady's Elysium is all about the floral scent of roses with flavours of red berries (cherries & strawberries) whilst the Red Muscadel from Rustenberg is more exotic with notes of spice and Turkish Delight; probably better suited to dark chocolate. Drink both of these straight from the fridge. They'll gradually open up to offer more opulence, but it's good to experiment with the serving temperature (i.e. eat more chocolate).
Oh, I don't suppose you've still got room for some cheese?
Well, let me recommend...