Four red wines to elevate your Easter lamb (just ditch the mint sauce)

Lamb is one of the most wine-friendly foods; it doesn’t have to be the traditional Bordeaux

Will you be sitting down to an Easter feast on Sunday? For some, this will be the first opportunity to enjoy a family celebration for some time. If you are a traditionalist, chances are you will be enjoying lamb in some form, probably a roast with all the trimmings.

Lamb is one of the most wine-friendly foods of all. Most medium-bodied red wines will taste better when consumed alongside it, especially fairly plain pink roast lamb. There are differing opinions as to why the two go together. Some argue it is the salt, others the protein element, but certainly the tannins usually found in red wine are softened by lightly chewy, salty, juicy red meat. As you increase the additional flavourings, so too should the body of the wine.

Lamb traditionalists would favour a good quality youngish red wine from Bordeaux. In the region, Pauillac has always been the classic match for the pré-salé lamb produced in the Gironde, which now has PGI status. In an ideal world we would be sitting down to a glass or two of Château Lynch-Bages or even Château Latour, but sadly this is beyond the budget of most. However, the L’Expression de Pauillac featured here would make an excellent alternative. I would suggest steering clear of mint sauce; that combination of sweetness and vinegar clashes horribly with wine.

You don’t need to confine yourself to Bordeaux. A good Cabernet Sauvignon from anywhere will do nicely. As well as the Australian wine featured here, California, Chile and South Africa all offer very good options, typically a little riper and more full-bodied.


Some of the best lamb I have ever tasted has been in Rioja, either roasted, stewed or chuletas, grilled lamb cutlets, so Spanish wine fans could indulge themselves with a good Rioja Reserva. Alternatively, Ribera del Duero offers a richer, full-bodied style of wine. If you want to broaden your horizons, a Zinfandel from California or a Malbec from Argentina would also go down nicely, although my recent favourite has been slow-braised Tuscan-style shoulder of lamb with plenty of rosemary, garlic and black olives that went perfectly with the Chianti featured here.

Mushrooms are the vegetarian equivalent of lamb, providing the perfect backdrop to good red wine. With the featured wines, I would suggest going for a fairly substantial dish such as cheesy, stuffed, baked Portabellos, a mushroom pie with a dark gravy, or even a mushroom tart Tatin. In Rioja they are also very fond of rich stews based on white beans and tomato, which can be every bit as good without the meat element.

Wine prices seem to be increasing across the board. However, for a special celebration such as Easter, it is worth spending a few euro more. You will notice the difference.

Chianti Il Paggio di Paggio Bonelli 2020 14%, €15 A medium- to full-bodied Chianti with intense dark fruits and a firm tannic structure. It needs food but would go down nicely with lamb with rosemary and garlic.  From Jus de Vine, Portmarnock,; 64wine, Glasthule,; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock,; Morton's, D6,; Mortons of Galway,; La Touche, Greystones,; Lilliput Stores, D7,; Green Man Wines, D6,; Pinto Wines, D9,

Rioja Reserva 2016, Bodega Hacienda Lopez de Haro €15.99-€19.99 A very attractive, well-priced Rioja Reserva with elegant red cherry fruits interlaced with vanilla and tobacco leaf. This would go nicely with grilled or roast lamb, as well as a tomato and bean casserole. From Neighbourhood Wine, D4, Dún Laoghaire, Bray,; McHughs, D5, D13,; Green Man Wines, D6,; Donnybrook Fair,; D-Six Wines, D6;; La Touche, Greystones,; Cass & Co, Dungarvan,; Matson's, Grange, Bandon and Youghal,; JJ O'Driscoll, Ballinlough,; Batch, Falcarragh,; Ardkeen Quality Foodstore, Waterford,

Petaluma Yellow Label Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2015 15%, €45.95 A classic Coonawarra Cab that carries its 15% ABV very well. Some capsicums and mint on the nose with lovely ripe blackcurrant and plum, a touch of lead pencils and some very fine-grained tannins on the dry finish.  From O'Briens,

L’Expression de Pauillac 2018, Pauillac 14.5%, €35 The label suggests that it is from one of the famous estates of Pauillac but doesn’t specify which one. It is certainly a classic Pauillac, full-bodied with blackcurrants, herbs and cedarwood, a firm tannic structure that cries out for roast red meat. Perfect for a festive Easter lunch. From Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown,