With Easter around the corner, the obvious thoughts about wine are to find the perfect match for a roast dinner, but this year I am leaving the little lambs to frolic in green pastures and have looked for the answer to a different conundrum
Everybody hopes for a little chocolate at Easter; big brand eggs are the thing for the younger generation, but the older folk, though partial to a certain amount, don’t really want a whole (or several) eggs to themselves. The solution, of course, is wine – not just any – but a big chocolaty red.
I had a chat with Joel Eastman of the Laithwaites Wines branch in Surbiton and asked him what he could recommend.
“The one thing above all others that makes wines chocolaty,” he tells me, “is allowing them to mature in oak, preferably American. The vanillin in the wood leeches into the wine, giving it a lovely soft roundness.”
Eastman has been in the wine trade for 12 years and has spent plenty of that time tasting and comparing wines, so I ask him for recommendations. Given his Australian roots, his suggestions of Californian and Argentinian offerings are a surprise, but they certainly make interesting drinking.
The first we try is Black Saint Peter 2014 (£13.99), a good enough name for Easter, made from Zinfandel grapes picked from old vines in California’s Lodi district. It’s a deep, dark and powerful wine, full of spice and tannin. It’s likeable and memorable, but I am not sure it’s got enough chocolate overtones for my Easter recipients to compensate for the eggs.
His other suggestion, again a genius name for the older generation, is a Malbec Shiraz blend from Mendoza, called The Forefather (£10.99). This is a silky smooth wine, so dark it’s almost black, with the Shiraz adding a soft spiciness to the mix. This has the chocolate vanilla flavours that I’m looking for in abundance – I might just design some chocolate wrappers to encase it for the guests on Easter Sunday.
Even though Laithwaites (incorporating the Sunday Times Wine Club) has a huge online ordering system, it’s not convenient for everyone, so below I have sourced some other wines that also fit the chocolate bill.
Torres Sangre de Toro 2015, Asda. £5
Cheap and cheerful with loads of character. The name translates as bull’s blood, but as they’ve given up bullfighting in its native Catalunya, you shouldn’t offend anyone by offering it.
South African Pinotage 2016, Tesco. £6
Soft, smooth and silky without being too dry. More mocha than the Sangre de Toro, and an absolute bargain at the price.
The Trilogy Malbec 2013, Tesco. £11
A classy label on a beautiful bottle, this needs no wrapping. It’s a bit older than the others and it shows with a more mature, deeper flavour and plenty of vanilla, softening the spices. Well-made and long-lasting.
St Hallett Barossa Shiraz 2015, Waitrose. £11.99
A rich, ripe fruity red, which has chocolatey overtones and even keeps its character when sipped alongside the odd square (or two) of milk chocolate.
Top of the range
The Chocolate Block 2015, Majestic. £25
The name says it all – this is a treat for anyone who loves chocolate and wine, though not necessarily together. First sniff, it’s a bit earthy and rustic, but give it 15 minutes and you’ve got a wonderful mouthful of berries with a little spice and chocolate around the edges. I’d be very happy to have this instead of an egg for Easter (as long as I can have a little taste of someone else’s).
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