Food and Wine Pairing

Roast Lamb with Mature Red Wines

leg-of-lamb-2728709_960_720Wine with lamb, provided we are talking about simple roast meat – no sauces or heavy seasoning – is not too difficult a match. Yes, it may be expensive, depending on how impressive you want your meal to be.

In Oinos and The Easter Feast, I named several local appellations which give great wine with lamb pairings. In general, a mature red with some body and at least medium tannins should be the primary guideline. Slight variations occur if you play with cooking time or use different cuts.

Quality Bordeaux, Rioja Gran Reserva, Chianti Classico – especially if the dish is given an Italian twist – would all work well with a medium to well-done leg of lamb. California or Coonawarra, to name just a few new world regions, provide options, too.

Here, you need to consider the aromatic profile of your mature red, as the leg of lamb, although delicious, is a simply favoured meat. There are wines which develop highly distinctive aromas as they age. An example is Barolo. Nebbiolo grape’s primary fruit profile, together with rose and violet scents, to which add truffle and tar aromas acquired with age, makes me think I wouldn’t drink Barolo wine with lamb (Robinson 2008/2010).

Apart from these profoundly aromatic specialities, red wines with the characteristics shown above, made from various grape varieties around the Globe, would all work.

Fiona Beckett observes that the shoulder of lamb, which is fattier and more flavourful than the leg,  would be better accompanied by a red with special mature flavours  such as Ribera del Duero or the top Northern Rhone appellations Hermitage or Côte-Rôtie, the kind of wines you would go with for venison or heavier meats such as mutton (Beckett, 2016).

Finally, if you serve your leg of lamb ‘pink’, the balance will lean towards low tannic reds, in which case a red Burgundy or high-quality Merlots – such as Pomerol – will take to the stage. Or you may like a Californian top red.

Pay attention, however, at sauces and heavy accompaniments, as things change a lot. It will be then the accompaniment that calls for the drink match rather than the meat.

For a Sunday Easter lunch I chose Kir-Yianni Diaporos 2011, a bold red labelled PGI Imathia, from Greece. Although not particularly complex as my tasting notes show,  its structural components have the perfect dosage for the lamb meat to be ’embraced’ by the drink. Its strong tannins bite through the meat, while its full body allows for the wine to simply envelop the meaty dish. As if the match was not complete, it comes with high acidity to offset any excessive fat in the food. It looks like it has been designed by its producer to be the perfect wine with lamb.

To stick a little more to Northern Greece, I remember another tasting of wine with roast lamb. It was Kir-Yianni Ramnista 2012, from PDO Naoussa. Geographically and from an administrative point of view, Imathia is a Greek province and Naoussa is a town in this province.  Wine-wise, Naoussa is a PDO which only admits one grape variety, Xinomavro (Lazarakis, 2005, Location no. 2224). PGI Imathia is also a Xinomavro-based  appellation, though slightly more permissive in terms of grape varieties (Lazarakis, 2005, Location no. 2227). Nonetheless, Diaporos is still a Xinomavro-based product, with only 8% Syrah in the blend (“Diaporos“, n.d.). Actually, the percentage varies by vintage (“Diaporos“, n.d.).  Ramnista is a very good wine with lamb, but I find Diaporos perfect. I cannot tell precisely which characteristics of the two bottlings could explain the slight difference. Both products are made in Yianakohori,  a grand cru-class vineyard in the Greek region of Macedonia (“Diaporos”, n.d.; “Ramnista”, n.d.). We know this vineyard is finely split in parcels by its owner, Kir-Yianni, and that each block has its own unique microclimat (Lazarakis, 2005, Location no. 2428). While Diaporos is made in block #5, Ramnista comes from a selection of vineyard blocks. I could say Ramnista has slightly less body and is somewhat less aromatic. Its price is also tangibly lower than that of Diaporos.

In the Christian Orthodox world – like elsewhere I suppose – Easter does not last for Sunday only. The next day, on Monday, I was invited for lunch. Of course, I was in charge with the wine with roast lamb pairing. This time, it was Davino Flamboyant 2013, one of the superstar Bordeaux blends from Dealu Mare, with a touch of Fetească Neagră to give it a Romanian identity. Full-bodied, juicy, with mature aromas already – although not at its peak – it had all reasons to be a very good wine with lamb.

The conclusion is that pairing wine with simple roast lamb is not too challenging. It may not be as simple as a salad with a crisp dry white, but you can try different options and you will find more and more fascinating sensations.

Bibliography

  • Robinson, J. (2010). Degustarea vinului [How to Taste Wine] (p. 156). București: VINEXPERT SRL (Original work published 2008).
  • Beckett, F. (2016, August 28). Top wine pairings for lamb. Retrieved 2 December 2017, from
    https://www.matchingfoodandwine.com/news/pairings/top-wine-pairings-for-lamb/
  • Lazarakis, K. (2005). The Wines of Greece. [Kindle version]. Retrieved from
    Amazon.com
  • Diaporos — Ktima Kir-Yianni. Retrieved 2 December 2017, from
    https://kiryianni.gr/wines/diaporos/2011/
  • Diaporos — Ktima Kir-Yianni. Retrieved 2 December 2017, from
    https://kiryianni.gr/wines/diaporos/2013/
  • Ramnista — Ktima Kir-Yianni. Retrieved 2 December 2017, from
    https://kiryianni.gr/wines/ramnista/2012/

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