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7:00am Saturday 23rd March 2013 in Lifestyle
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris celebrates Easter with some food-friendly wines to toast the long Bank Holiday weekend Ease into Easter A fanfare of food and fun for all the family, the Easter parade of spring lamb, leafy greens, fine cheeses and chocolate eggs is a roll call for striking wines to accompany this seasonal palate.
Indeed, with four days of entertaining, it's time to dust down the shelves and make room for some different styles to chime with the occasion and enhance those sweet moments.
Good Friday traditionally calls for a fish supper and a glass of bubbly is a fitting start to the weekend's roster of irresistible indulgence.
Champagne Pierre Darcys NV Blanc de Noirs, France (£17 from £25.97, until April 11, Asda) impressed the judges enough at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) to be awarded a silver medal for the toasty blend of black grapes - 65% pinot noir and 35% pinot meunier - gives the wine enough strength and body to sip it with richer seafood dishes such as sea bass and creamy fish pie.
For a star match with plain fish and shellfish, opt for a lighter white which won't overpower the seafood.
A French favourite when dining alfresco, picpoul is native to the Languedoc and may even channel some Mediterranean warmth to the table. Try Finest Picpoul de Pinet 2011, France (£6 from £7.49, from March 27 to April 23, Tesco) which is fresh, bright and dry with good acidity and instantly recognisable by its long, slim bottle.
For a stand-alone wine to take you from seafood starters to the main event, viognier is a terrific choice that bridges the boundaries between chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Well rounded and creamy with a deliciously fragrant nose and crisp acidity, Mas La Chevaliere Viognier 2011, France (£8.39, www.thedrinkshop.com) is nicely exotic without being over the top.
Easter lamb signals a powerful red wine to stand up to the strongly flavoured meat and oak-aged Rioja makes a natural choice.
For a good entry level style with a grand label to grace the table, try Extra Special Marques Del Norte Rioja Reserva 2008, Spain (£5 from £7.48, until April 24, Asda). Unbeatable value, the typical blend of tempranillo, garnacha and graciano engulfs the tastebuds with plenty of big juicy flavours, rounded vanilla from the oak and sweet, strawberry spice.
Waitrose also has a little gem with its Waitrose Vega Ariana Rioja 2010, Spain (£6.29, Waitrose). Teaming tempranillo with graciano, this lip-smacking mouthful of ripe plum and cassis fruit with a hint of violet and a firm backbone of tannins will complement the succulent cuts of young meat.
Elsewhere, a showy wine from Tuscany with impeccable credentials is a fine way to mark the end of Lent and celebrate with an impressive spread of delicacies.
The Strozzi Estate is reaped in history with roots dating back more than 1,000 years, and while the winemaker doesn't list the age of the vines in Principe Strozzi Chianti 2011, Italy (£8.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk) it certainly tastes like a top drop. Made from sangiovese, beyond the violet nose it's robust with moreish morello cherries, earthy characters and chewy tannins on the long, lingering finish echoing the cherry.
For claret lovers, Easter wouldn't be Easter without a bottle of Bordeaux and leading producer Dourthe rarely releases a dud wine.
From an outstanding vintage, try La Terrasse de la Garde 2009, Pessac Leognan, France (£11.99 from £14.99, from March 20 until April 9, Sainsbury's). Soft and generous with warm cassis, plum and blackcurrant fruits with a gutsy edge, finishing with smooth tannins and a delicious mouthfeel, there's enough structure and fruit to handle heartier lamb stews and roasts.
To round off the meal with a tasty treat, a tangy, dry Madeira such as Blandy's Alvada Five Year Old Madeira (£13.33, Waitrose) acts as the perfect foil to chocolate eggs and simnel cake. A tawny temptress, this fortified wine marries malmsey grapes with bual and the layers of subtle dried fruit and apricots taste quite celestial.
Alternatively, a crusted port (non-vintage and less pricey) is versatile enough to go from sweet to savoury and complement stilton, Wensleydale and mature cheddar with its nutty and spicy profile.
A dark, ruby red from Portugal's most awarded port wine producer, try Graham's Crusted Port (£17.99, Sainsbury's) which should be allowed to stand for an hour before serving to allow the deposit (crust) to settle, and then decanted.
Indeed, this will encourage the dense, fruity flavours to caress the mouth with a rich pile of velvet berries before you tuck into the next helping.
:: Best buy Call the shots... Down your own medieval fantasy and enjoy a crowning moment with Game of Thrones House Sigil Shot Glasses (set of 10), £59.90, and £5.99 each from http://store.hbouk.com A spin-off from the American sci-fi TV series, tipplers can toast the Houses Baratheon, Lannister, Stark, Martell, Tyrell and even Stannis Baratheon's own sigil.
:: Liquid news Baileys enjoys a makeover... Our favourite cream liqueur for nearly 40 years, Baileys The Original Irish Cream (£14.50, 70cl, major supermarkets nationwide) has a new-look bottle designed to fit inside the fridge door and sit next to a bottle of wine and pint of milk. The slimmer, longer shape means Baileys can be enjoyed chilled, straight from the fridge without having to pour it over ice. For more info visit www.diageo.com