Anthony Rose: The most fitting wine for the religious-minded this weekend is Vin Santo, Italy's holy wine
Saturday 11 April 2009
What did you give up for Lent? Work? Religion? Giving things up? If you gave up wine, having duly purified mind and body, you will doubtless have been looking forward to easing yourself into wine's answer to a luxurious bubble bath. I'm not much of a fan of the stuff, but if there is a right time for demi-sec champagne, then Easter is it. Not just any demi-sec mind, because a lot of them are too yucky; go for a classy one, like Louis Roederer Carte Blanche, Demi-Sec NV, £34-£40, Majestic, Harvey Nichols, Tanners, Berry Bros, or Billecart-Salmon, £29.99- £39.99, Uncorked, Oddbins.
One of the most moreish sweet fizzes is fragrant, low-in-alcohol moscato d'asti. Michele Chiarlo's 2007 Nivole, £5.99-£7.99, 37.5 cl., Booths, Oddbins, is a scented, gently foaming liquid muscat that brings delightfully contrasting sweet grapey flavours to a dish such as melon and Parma ham, and at only 5.5 per cent alcohol, still leaves you feeling refreshed. If the mouth waters for bubbles of the more conventionally dry kind, Marks & Spencer's 2002 Union Champagne de St Gall Premier Cru, £26.99, has seductively creamy pinprick bubbles, combined with a sunburst of citrusy flavours; for a more affordable option, Tesco's Finest Prosecco, £8.99, bubbles under with touches of fresh-pear sweetness.
A fitting way to match the occasion for Easter Day is with, well, yes, the superb wines of Ostertag, André Ostertag, that is, one of Alsace's finest biodynamic producers. His 2007 Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes, £11.75, Butler's Wine Cellar (01273 698724), Berry Bros (bbr.com), is delicately floral, spritz-fresh, and intensely flavoured with spice and ginger undertones and a mouthwatering dry aftertaste. The magnificent 2004 Domaine Ostertag Riesling Munchberg, Alsace Grand Cru, around £24.70, Bedales, Spitalfields, Berry Bros, is immensely concentrated and exotically rich in a riot of pineapple, peach and mango flavours, the acidity just softening now into approachability.
The most fitting wine for the religious-minded this weekend is Vin Santo, Italy's holy wine, aka visanto in Greece. You may have to say three Hail Marys before venturing into this cask-aged blend of trebbiano and malvasia, as it can be a bit too "traditional" for its own good. A couple of exceptions are the richly marmalade-y 2003 Cantine Leonardo Vin Santo Tegrino, around £19.99, 50cl, Noel Young (01223 566744), Valvona (0131 556 6066), Cooden Cellars (01323 649663), and the aromatic, lusciously concentrated 2000 Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico, around £31.49, half-bottle, Philglas & Swiggot (020-7924 4494), Bennetts (01386 840392), Luvians (01334 477752), The Wine Society. Best drunk as a pudding in their own right, or, as the Italians, do, by dunking biscotti.
I'm normally sceptical about wine with chocolate. But for the hopelessly addicted, I suggest Bodegas Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez Triana, around £12.99, 50cl, Majestic, Jeroboams, Tanners (01743 234455), Thresher, a sweet liquid treacle toffee pudding in a bottle whose richness can be moderated with dark chocolate or vanilla ice-cream. Or try Marc Kent's deliciously intense and spicy Cape blend, the 2007 The Chocolate Block, £18.99, Handford (020 7589 6113), winedirect.co.uk, sawinesonline. anthonyrosewine.com
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