Dishing up lamb tomorrow for Easter? Christine Austin has some tips on what wines you should be pouring.

If part if your Easter celebration involves sitting around the table with family and friends then there is a strong chance that there is a joint of lamb in your fridge, waiting for tomorrow. I just love the aromas that waft around my kitchen when there is lamb in the oven, but my choice of wine very much depends on the way I cook the meat. Lighter flavours deserve lighter wine, while bigger flavours with the roast demand more positive tastes in the glass.

One of the easiest cuts is a rack of lamb, often stripped of most of its fat and needing just 20 minutes in a hot oven to be served pink in the middle and with the lightest, most delicate of lamb flavours. For this I would head towards a Pinot Noir, especially one from New Zealand where some of the most exciting New World Pinots are made. Top choice is Escarpment The Edge 2014 (Waitrose, on offer down from £13.99 to £10.49 until Tuesday 18th April) from the Martinborough region of North Island. Made by occasional Yorkshire visitor Larry McKenna, this has juicy, red berry fruit, backed by a streak of savoury herbal notes that chime perfectly with the delicate lamb flavours. Step up to the deeper complexity of his vineyard-specific wines from Escarpment where, like Burgundy, the soil composition of the vineyard seems to shine through in the flavour of the wine. My favourite is Kupe, a high density, low yielding vineyard that at present is planted on its own roots and which is scheduled for gradual replanting now that phylloxera is marching up the valley, ready to much its way through these valiant vines. The 2015 vintage is generally available on independent merchants’ shelves and I love it for its dark, concentrated flavours and food-friendly, slightly grainy, supple tannins (Martinez £36.99) but try heading to Field and Fawcett where they may still have a few bottles of older vintages left. With a little age these top Escarpment wines evolve into delicious, silky, broad-tasting wines, with dark cherry fruit, backed by layers of spice and herby forest floor notes.


Pinot Noir is perfect with delicate lamb flavours

For larger family gatherings I favour a leg of lamb, rosemary and garlic-spiked and served still pink at the knuckle end, but crisp and full of dark caramelised flavours at the other. It needs longer in the oven than a rack of lamb and so there is time to put together all the family favourite roasties, Yorkshire pud, veg and gravy. With more flavour on the plate then you need more flavour in your glass and this is where Rioja shines.

Majestic has Beronia Reserva 2012 on offer at present, down from £14.99 to £9.99 on a mix six deal. This provides fabulous value for money, delivering juicy, black cherry fruit, edged with cinnamon spice and gentle oak. Slightly creamier with bramble-style fruit and with firmer tannins CUNE Rioja Reserva 2012 is also on offer at Majestic, down from £12.99 down to £8.99 on a mix six deal. For a flashback to how Rioja tasted decades ago head to Viña Ardanza 2008, Majestic down from £23.99 to £19.99 on mix six. This wine echoes the style of Rioja long before fruit came to the fore and so it revels in its delicate, sweet raspberry and red cherry notes, wrapped in gentle, old oak, and showing spice, earthy notes and supple tannins. This wine is ready now and will show off well against roast lamb, but it won’t come to any harm if you keep it for a few more years.

Shoulder of lamb presents another challenge in that I find myself with a sharp knife de-boning the joint and stuffing it with anchovies, capers and olives. I make no attempt to present this feast in its pink state, heading straight to fully cooked and so my wine choice needs to be sufficiently robust to cope with the savoury meatiness.

Cabernet Sauvignon or a Cabernet Merlot blend is my choice here and for sheer value try Journey’s End Kendal Lodge Cabernet Merlot 2014 from South Africa (Marks and Spencer down from £10 to £8 until 24 April). With dark cassis fruit and notes of sage and thyme it is perfectly matched against the meat. Step up to Robert Oatley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 from Margaret River, Australia (Halifax Wine Co, down from its usual £12.95 to just £10.95) for its big, smooth, succulent bramble fruit, with notes of cigar-box and sun-dried herbs.

Journey’s End vineyards overlook Cape Bay, South Africa

Should tomorrow dawn with a sunny day in prospect I might just put the lamb in a big casserole dish, cover it in red wine and chopped veg, and leave it in a slow oven while we all head out for a long walk. This gives a completely different aroma in the kitchen as the wine evaporates and the meat gently cooks for several hours. This needs a big, mellow wine to settle alongside all those deep casserole flavours and Errazuriz Max Reserva 2014 (£12.99 Waitrose) is an ideal choice. It has hearty, big blackcurrant fruit, smooth, silky tannins and a warm, spice and chocolate finish.

Try super-smooth Errazuriz Max with slow-cooked lamb

Whichever way you cook your lamb, go easy on the redcurrant jelly and certainly don’t let mint sauce go within a mile of your plate. The harsh flavours of vinegar and mint will drown all the gorgeous flavours of your meat and wine.

As a finale to the meal, a chocolate pud is essential at Easter. Lighter desserts such as a chocolate mousse need a wine such as the floral aroma and grapey style of Andrew Quady’s Black Muscat (£9.99 Majestic on mix six) but this year the family are in for a treat. I have recently perfected the way to get runny centres in my chocolate puddings so I will be pouring the robust, fruity flavours of Taylor’s LBV 2011 port alongside (£10.99 on offer at the Co-op). An alternative is ice cream with hot chocolate sauce poured on top. To add another burst of flavour, try drizzling Barbadillo’s Pedro Ximénez over the dish as well. Its deep, figgy flavours add another dimension to all chocolate desserts. Find it at Roberts and Speight in Beverley, £11.99.

Taylor’s LBV 2011 Port, perfect with chocolate

About The Author

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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