As Maundy Thursday approaches, Peter Ranscombe picks wines from local stores and further afield to serve with your Easter lamb.
PERHAPS this year more than any other, Easter feels full of hope.
“Stay at home” is about to become “Stay local” on Good Friday.
Hairdressers will reopen on Monday – goodbye, mullet – and garden centres too, so if I can’t get an appointment at the barber’s shop then at least there’s hope of finding a hedge trimmer to tackle my thatch.
Dates are pencilled ever-so-lightly into the diary for the reopening of outdoor dining.
And then, whisper it, we might soon be able to enjoy a pint inside a pub too.
In the meantime, we’re faced with “lockdown lamb part two: return of the sheep”.
After last year’s instalment – featuring wines for different cuts and for leftovers – I thought we’d return to look at more brilliant bottles to accompany the baa-lamb.
And, if Easter has crept up on you like it has on me, there are plenty of local options in here, as well as a few from further a field.
If the Co-op or Scotmid are your local options then don’t panic because I think they’ve got some of the best bottles available this Easter.
Chateau Dasvin-Bel-Air Cru Bourgeois Haut-Medoc 2018 (£12.50)
How can this wine be only £12.50? Belonging to the Cru Bourgeois left-bank classification of wines that sit below the classified growths, this is one of most impressive Bordeaux wines at this price point. Claret’s classic blackcurrant, damp earth, and pencil lead aromas lead into well-balanced acidity and tannins, with sweet black fruit on the palate, well-integrated vanilla, and a dusting of graphite. Laudable with lamb.
Vina Leyda Reserva Syrah 2019 (£8 until 6 April then £10)
While carmenere might be Chile’s calling card, the South American powerhouse is producing some exciting syrah too. The Vina Leyda is a great introduction – it’s simple, it’s straightforward, and it’s got cracking fruit concentration. Blackcurrant and blackberry, with a squeeze of redcurrant thrown into the mix too.
Bosman Adama Fairtrade Red 2018 (£10)
Imagine the Rhone red grape crew – that’s syrah, grenache, mouvedre, cinsault, and their co-fermenting buddy viognier – went on holiday to the south of Italy and bumped into their old mates primitivo and nero d’Avola. And then imagine that whole holiday bromance was transported to South Africa. Then you’ll get this really impressive red blend from the clever people at Bosman. It shouldn’t work. It really shouldn’t work. But it does. A pinot noir-like paleness belies its aromas of deep, dark, barbecue smoke and red plum aromas, and the sweet vanilla and raspberry jam enveloping the palate. If your lamb is going anywhere near the braai then this needs to be its companion.
I’m jonesing to try more of Aldi’s spring-summer range but, until then, I’d make do with either of these lamb-friendly contenders.
Estevez Chilean Sangiovese Reserva (£6.49)
My pick of Aldi’s new reds so far. Cedar, spun sugar, and red cherry on the nose, plus a mix of sweet spun sugar and fresher strawberry on the palate. Pink roast lamb paired with a lovely red fruit lift, with enough tannin to slice through the slices.
Buenas Vides Criolla (£5.99)
If your leftover lamb is destined to end up as a pizza topping then reach for the criolla. I often find it too acidic, but this bottle has beautiful balance, with an Italianate combination of spun sugar, red cherry, and red plum.
Lidl’s latest “wine tour” promotion is in full swing. Cotes du Rhone is a classic lamb pairing, and its syrah- and grenache-based cousins from further along the coast are worth a look too.
Bastide Miraflors 2018 (£8.99, Lidl)
Subtle wood smoke and vanilla remain in the background on the nose, allowing the blackberry and raspberry aromas from the syrah and old vine grenache to shine. Red fruit flavours of strawberry and raspberry come to the fore on the palate, before a blast of blackcurrant on the finish. Its ripe yet assertive tannins would lend themselves to meatier cuts.
Looking for something fruity for under a tenner? Then look no further.
Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet (£9)
Never dismiss the big brands when you want an easy-going, undemanding red. You’ve got mint, you’ve got violets, you’ve got a redcurrant lift. You’ve got sweet vanilla, you’ve got punchy raspberry, you’ve got the warmth of 14.5% alcohol by volume. Job done.
Majestic’s renaissance continues. I can’t wait to try its full range once lockdown allows.
Virgen del Galir Maruxa Mencia 2019 (£10.99)
Rioja was one of the stars of last year’s lockdown lamb selection. Head west from Rioja’s hallowed turf and you’ll, eventually, reach Valdeorras in Galicia, and the mencia grape. Here, it’s been used to make a bottle full of blackberry on the nose and then redder fruit on the palate, with ripe raspberry and red plum. It’s not seen any oak, but the sweet ripeness of that fruit will still hit the spot for Rioja fans looking for an Easter alternative.
Scotland’s independent wine merchants are our true vinous heroes – if you live anywhere near one of these troopers (or within delivery distance) then ask them for their suggestions too.
Domaine de Tourelles Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2018 (£17, Woodwinters)
“Hey carignan, what’s your game now? Can anybody play?” As The Hollies may once have sung. This carignan’s game is old vine fruit grown in the Bekka Valley in Lebanon. It’s got the tannins to take on a stringier cut of lamb, plus plenty of port-like red fruit flavours.
Domaine de Tourelles Vieilles Vignes Cinsault 2018 (£17.35, Great Grog)
Its brother-in-arms is the old vine cinsault, with a mix of sweet and smoky raspberry and blackcurrant jams, plus enough fresh acidity to tackle a fattier cut of lamb too.
If you can catch a last-minute delivery slot then there may still be time to order some bottles from further afield – but call ahead to check first.
Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir 2018 (£17.50, Frazier’s)
California’s characteristic spun sugar, strawberry jam, and wood smoke aromas on the nose lead into sweet and ripe red plum, raspberry jam, and more spun sugar on the palate. Really well crafted for a regional blend, capturing the Californian ripeness so often missing from other pinots.
Yarra Yering Dry Red Wine No2 2015 (£49, Hic!)
It’s time for our splash-out red – look no further than this blend of shiraz, mataro, viognier, and marsanne from the Yarra Valley near Melbourne in Australia. It’s elegance personified, with cedar, gentle cigar smoke, and warm earth on the nose, then ripe tannins balanced by raspberry, red plum, and well-integrated vanilla on the palate. Six years old and starting to hit its stride, but this wine has years and years lying ahead of it.
To read more about Peter Ranscombe’s adventures around the world – both in person and online – visit his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.