Make sure to pick the right Easter wines

Roasted leg of lamb with potatoes, garlic and sauce.

Roasted leg of lamb with potatoes, garlic and sauce. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s nearly Easter weekend when at traditional family gatherings roast lamb is often on the menu and much chocolate to be consumed. The big question is what to choose to drink with it that will enhance the flavours of the dish.

Les Volets Chardonnay and KZ Pinotage.

Les Volets Chardonnay and KZ Pinotage. - Credit: Archant

Lamb is often roasted with garlic and flavoursome herbs such as thyme and rosemary and these need some feisty wines to complement them.

Well-known grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier produce some possible accompanying wines but there are also many others that that are worth seeking out.

Try a Picpoul de Pinet from one of the smallest appellations in the South of France which is nicknamed ‘la bomba’ for its incredibly fruity concentrated character - it has a floral enticing nose with a crisp fruity long lasting taste.

Also the wines from nearby Limoux like the Ch St Roch Chardonnay, offer an understated yet lovely mouthful of ripe fruit which is great with this dish.

Alternatively look for a lightly oaked Chardonnay such as that from Ventisquero winery in Chile or the lovely Chenin Blancs from South Africa such as those from Painted Wolf in Paarl – make sure you find those with a bit of weight not just youthful appley notes that would not go with lamb.

The classic grape variety that makes wines that go well with roast lamb is Pinot Noir and as recent increases and the budget continue to push the price of classic Burgundy out of reach then it’s time to seek out the delicious alternatives that are around.

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New Zealand is a good place to start especially those from Martinborough in North Island like Escarpment Pinot Noir or from Two Paddocks Central Otago in South Island as they have lovely dark berry flavours with peppery spice that is great with garlic and herbs.

We’ve recently been tasting Pinotage from South Africa and there are some lighter yet very flavoursome versions such as the Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection and False Bay wines that have some delicious spicy briary fruit notes. These would be great with lamb dishes.

Other reds of interest may be Rioja including the great value classics from Conde Bel, and if you want a treat the reserva de la Familia from Luis Canas.

Barbera from Italy makes wines with soft briary full notes with depth and concentration when oak aged such as the Rive Barbera from Il Cascinone in Piemeonte.

If you’re still thinking of Italian grape varieties try a Sangiovese that is traditionally used to produce Chianti but go for the Australian version.

It still has the lovely savoury cherry notes with some acidity but with an enveloping roundness from the riper grapes that Coriole for example use to produce their Sangiovese in McLaren Vale.

Chocolate is notoriously difficult to match with wine but there are some that have the same rich and smooth mouthcoating characteristics that will enhance the flavour of both.

Layers of soft textured notes can be found in Australian Cabernets that have been carefully oak-aged, and also on many of the delicious Argentinian Malbecs that offer great value too.

However, for the best chocolate and wine match look to the naturally sweet red dessert wines such as the Rasteau from Domaine de Beaurenard or a fortified Pineau des Charentes from Domaine de Beaulon.

This is delicious with quality chocolate (Easter eggs) and coffee at any time, not just to round off Easter Sunday lunch!