In my first post I told you about four rules for masterful food and wine matching. If you haven't yet had a chance to put these into practice, I'm about to provide a bit more context by focussing specifically on tastes that find their way onto our tables at Easter.
On this particular long weekend, most of us are well versed in what food to serve and when. From fish on Good Friday to roast lamb on Easter Sunday with an abundance of chocolate in between, simple traditions are followed every year.
When it comes to pairing these foods with wine, however, not everyone knows where to start. Don't worry too much about pairing specific dishes to specific wines - our taste buds differ too widely from person to person to make the perfect match every time - just keep it simple. No matter what your personal preferences are, it comes down to how the predominant tastes in your food (especially sweetness, acid, fat and salt) change the taste of the wine.
The Main Meal
Whether there's a succulent leg of lamb on your table on Easter Sunday or a meat-free option, roast dinners tend to be pretty high in salt. Salty food can be a great friend to wine - making it taste richer, less acidic, and softening mouth-drying tannins. This means that you can indulge in a big, bold red wine alongside your roast. Cabernet Sauvignon based wines like those from the Médoc in Bordeaux work well. Warmer climate equivalents such as South African or Australian Cabernet Sauvignons work well too, especially if you prefer riper fruits.
Be sure not to forget about your sauces when matching a wine - these are often the most powerful flavours on the plate and can be quite acidic. Acidity in food works a bit like salt, it makes a wine seem fruiter and can soften a sharp seeming red or white.
If you're having fish on Good Friday, try to match the intensity of the flavour with your wine. Smoked salmon has a strong taste and matches well with flavoursome aromatic whites like Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough or Chile. Wines from cooler regions such as Chablis work well with white fish such as grilled sea bass with a drizzle of lemon. The high level of mouth-watering acidity in these styles cuts through the smoky, oily fish and gives the dish a lift.
With the mountain of sweet treats that are devoured over Easter, I'd recommend trying to match your chosen tipple to the food's sweetness. Sweet food can make a dry wine taste bitter, less fruity and less flavoursome, so you can easily remove the personality from your delicious drink by overwhelming it with sweetness. If you enjoy an early start to your Easter celebrations and fancy a glass of fizz with your hot cross buns, try something with a bit of sweetness and a hint of honey like a sparkling demi-sec ('half-dry') from Vouvray to complement the sweet spiciness of the buns.
Now to the tricky subject of chocolate and wine. We would all love for two of our favourite treats to make the perfect match but sadly that is rarely the case. Every palate is different but in general there are very few wines that pair perfectly with chocolate. As chocolate melts, it coats your mouth in sugar which can mask the fruity flavours of your chosen wine, leaving it tasting bitter and hollow. If you really do not want to miss out on a wine and chocolate pairing, try chocolates with a high cocoa content with sweet fortified wine such as a Ruby or Tawny Port or even a Recioto from Veneto, Italy.
I've focused specifically on Easter in this post, but no matter what holidays you celebrate or what traditions you follow (or indeed choose not to follow), it comes down to learning how the basic tastes in your food are going to change your wine. Hopefully you can see how these simple principles can be applied to any meal. Have fun experimenting with these pairings, and have yourselves a lovely Easter.