I was standing in a queue at the checkout when a woman winked at me and said “There’s going to be some happy little people in your house on Easter morning”. It took me a minute to realise she was talking about my stash of Easter goodies – for my kids. I don’t have kids.
I smiled awkwardly and dodged questions about my fake children for a very long minute until I was let off the hook by an available checkout. I do regret giving my imaginary kids the names of my boss and my dog. I don’t regret claiming the discovery garden pots. Or my stash of Easter eggs.
I get far more excited about Easter than Christmas. I love hot cross buns and will unashamedly buy them in January. I am a firm believer that Easter egg chocolate tastes twice as good as regular chocolate. And, as an adult, I get to pair delicious drinks with my treats. But here’s the thing, chocolate and wine can be a tricky pairing. Sweet foods can make wine taste sour and bitter; add in creamy richness and you can very easily end up in a very dark place.
The wonderful thing about Easter pairings is that this is the perfect time of year to drink fortified wines – stunning styles that are so often overlooked. There are two key themes to making these pairings delicious. First, make sure the wine is sweeter than the chocolate, and second, salt is your friend. Salt in food makes the acid and tannin in a wine taste rounder and softer.
For traditional hot cross buns I love an aged Oloroso Sherry. The wine is filled with the same spicy raisin and citrus fruit characters, plus some nutty coffee notes. A lick of salted butter (or a thick slice in my case) makes the wine taste even more decadent.
Dark chocolate eggs are great with red wine, with a little planning. Bittersweet chocolate (above 70% cocoa) tends to work better, especially if you pair it with a fruity red with round, soft tannins like a Barossan or McLaren Vale grenache or shiraz. Or for something a little more festive try a sparkling shiraz. If your chosen pairing could use a little nudge, just add a sprinkle of sea salt to the chocolate.
Milk chocolate tends to be much higher in sugar so Port, or similar fortified styles from Australia, work a treat. If you love rich berry flavours then seek out a ruby Port; if you want more nutty, raisined, caramelised flavours, a tawny style will delight.
Caramel eggs have an extra level of sweetness calling for a luscious Pedro Ximinez (PX) Sherry. Grapes are dried to concentrate the sugars before the wine is made. Long ageing in barrels also helps them develop a rich, syrupy texture with flavours of coffee, chocolate and caramel – a perfect match.
Rocky road eggs are my favourite (that’s what the imaginary kids are getting for Easter), but the perfumed sweetness of marshmallow adds an extra pairing challenge. I am stocking up on Rutherglen Muscat. This uniquely Australian style marries rich, dried fruit and nut flavours with a floral lift and is sweet enough to carry even the most indulgent desserts. If white chocolate is your thing, then here’s a very different idea – try it with gin. The botanicals add freshness and some herbal complexity to the sweet, creamy chocolate.
Whatever your preference, it is definitely worth hiding at least a few treats from the kids.