Food and Wine Pairing

Roast Lamb with Mature Red Wines

Lamb Roast with fire BehindIn Oinos and The Easter Feast, I named several local appellations whose red wines would work well with lamb.

Provided we are talking about simply cooked meat – no sauces or heavy seasoning –  wine pairing with roast lamb is not too difficult. Yes, it may be expensive, depending on how impressive you want your meal to be. 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. Here, you need to consider the aromatic profile of your mature wine, 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’s primary fruity profile, together with rose and violet scents, to which add truffle and tar aromas acquired with age, makes me think I would never 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 wine 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 wines, in which case a red Burgundy or high-quality Merlots – such as Pomerol – will take to the stage.

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

For my 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,  this wine’s structural components have the perfect dosage for the lamb meat to be ’embraced’ by the wine. It’s strong tannins bite through the meat, while it’s full body allows for the wine to simply envelop the lamb dish. As if the pairing was not complete, the wine comes with high acidity to offset any excessive fat the lamb might have. It looks like it has been designed by its producer to be the perfect wine pairing with lamb.

To stick a little more to Northern Greece, I remember tasting Kir-Yianni Ramnista 2012 – a wine from PDO Naoussa – with roast leg of lamb, on another occasion. 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 wine, 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 wines 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 took the wine. 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 it’s peak, the wine had all reasons to be a very good pairing with lamb.

The conclusion is that wine with simply roasted lamb is not a difficult pairing. 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.


  • 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
  • Lazarakis, K. (2005). The Wines of Greece. [Kindle version]. Retrieved from
  • Diaporos. Ktima Kir-Yianni – Greek Wines. Retrieved 2 December 2017, from
  • Diaporos. Ktima Kir-Yianni – Greek Wines. Retrieved 2 December 2017, from
  • Ramnista. Ktima Kir-Yianni – Greek Wines. Retrieved 2 December 2017, from


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