Whether it's a hearty red or something sweet to go with your dessert, Christine Austin chooses her pick of the bunch for Spring.

If you are fortunate enough to have your family heading in your direction to spend one of the long Bank Holiday weekends with you then you will probably think about serving lamb.  This is the classic time to snip some sprigs of rosemary, slice a few cloves of garlic and stud a leg of lamb with herbs and flavour, then roast it in a hot oven.  Its delicate, sweet meat is a joy with all the usual accompaniments of roasties, Yorkshire pudding and a selection of veg.  But make sure you steer clear of those flavour hazards that usually get brought out with lamb.  Go easy on the redcurrant jelly and certainly don’t let mint sauce go within a mile of your plate.

The wine you choose to accompany this dish will set the tone for the day, so select with care.

Rioja is the classic wine to accompany lamb. Its gentle cherry and redcurrant fruit flavours, usually with a streak of oak, marry perfectly with the meat. In particular, the new style of Rioja with the emphasis on fruit rather than faded grandeur and a touch too much oak shows that this favourite region has re-invented itself.  Head to Waitrose where Beronia Rioja Reserva 2013 is down from its usual £14.49 to £10.69 until 14 May.

This is a warm, food-friendly style of Rioja with ripe damson and raspberry fruit, and a touch of cinnamon and light oak. It combines with the meat without dominating the dish.  Booths also have a good deal on Rioja with Cune Rioja Crianza 2015 down from £10 to £7.50 until 7 May.  This is a fruit-forward style of Rioja with just a hint of vanilla oak supporting the ripe bramble fruit.

Lighter in style, with the emphasis on fruit rather than oak is Hacienda Lopéz de Haro Tempranillo Rioja 2017 (Martinez Wines, Ilkley and Bingley, £9.49).  Made using grapes from old vines that have had 50 years or more to dig their roots down into the soil, the wine has aged in oak for just 6 months, and so the red fruit flavours shine out, with just enough tannin to give structure and finesse.

If you have a large family settling down around your table then a big bottle is impressive and Waitrose has the elegant flavours of Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico 2015 down from £26.99 to £19.99, for a magnum. This is seriously good Chianti with spiced black cherry fruit and truffle undertones and it will take on the meat and those roasted root vegetables with ease.  Keep a little in your glass to go with the cheese that might follow the main course.

In bottles rather than magnums, Field and Fawcett in York has stocks of the delightful Chianti Rufina 2016 from Fattoria Selvapiana. This has juicy cherry and plum fruit, with hints of tobacco and savoury complexity that will add a delicious dimension to your Sunday lunch.

Claret is another classic partner for lamb and Morrisons have their own-label ‘The Best’ St Emilion 2015 down from its usual £12 to £10 until 30 April. Typically Merlot-dominant it has enough Cabernet Franc to add a touch of herbaceous complexity with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon boosting the finish.  The result is a wine that will accompany a leg of lamb with ease.

Alternatively, if you happen to be near Beverley this weekend then call in to Roberts and Speight where they have the smooth, supple fruit of Ch. Mahon-Laville 2015 from Bordeaux at £13.99 or at £12.59 on a 12 bottle discount.  That discount applies across the whole range and so take advantage of their offer and add a couple of bottles of Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Reserva 2014 to your case of 12. This is an elegant, restrained, textured style of Rioja, with cherry and herbal notes.  It doesn’t jump out of the glass immediately but waits to be discovered, growing in the glass as it fills out with flavour.  You could enjoy your first bottle with your lamb, but save some for summer drinking alongside any upmarket barbecue where lamb kebabs and duck breast replace the usual chicken legs and burgers.

 

As a finale to the meal, a chocolate pud is a delicious choice. If you have some port left at the back of a cupboard then now is the time to get it poured alongside a rich chocolate mousse.  If you don’t have any leftovers then the Co-op has the smooth, plums and blackberry flavours of Taylor’s Reserve Port down from £10.75 to £7.75 until 14 May. At this price you can afford to pour it generously and keep on pouring it with cheese and even with a slice of mid-afternoon fruit cake until the bottle is empty.  Under no circumstances tuck this bottle away only to re-discover it next Christmas when the vibrant fruit will have evaporated away.

If your pud has more fruit and nuts rather than simple bold chocolate notes then Waitrose Vin Santo Santa Cristina 2013 from Tuscany, down from £16.49 to £13.99 (50cl) until 14 May has the right balance of flavours to partner it.  This will also sit nicely alongside a slice of Simnel cake.

If the sun decides to shine then a glass of English Sparkling wine becomes necessary.  Not only do its fresh, English garden aromas seem entirely appropriate as the garden bursts into life, but we should also raise a glass to our own uncertain future. Whichever way the politics shake out, the next year or so will be rocky and so it will be good to have our own sparkling wine to keep us going.  Waitrose has the delicately shaded Nyetimber rosé down from its regular £39.99 to £29.99 until 14 May.  This has all the fresh, floral notes you might expect from one of the UK’s leading producers of sparkling wine, but it has red fruits too, and a softer, rounder style that makes it the perfect wine to welcome the family back to base.

 

 

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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