Wine and Lamb Pairings for those who aren’t Sheepish

lamb spring1The other Easter classic, roasted or grilled lamb, is one of the easiest foods to pair with wine.

Juicier in texture than turkey, milder in flavor than beef, the classic match for its savory flavors are the cabernet sauvignon blends of Bordeaux.

But many dry and robust reds will also work, such as Spanish rioja and Rhône Valley syrah blends.

Also good matches are the lush, fruity cabernets from New World regions, such as California, Chile, Canada and Australia.

However, with more succulently prepared lamb dishes, many people prefer the more austere, restrained flavors of Old World reds. In fact, the French word “salambchopsuvignon” means “savage.”

It describes those wild, gamey, leathery aromas in a good cabernet sauvignon that complement the herbs we use to flavor lamb, such as rosemary, mint and thyme.

The rich flavors of Navarin d’agneau printanier, the hearty French spring lamb and vegetable stew, also pair well with full-bodied reds.

An especially tender treat is spring lamb, just five to six months old, cooked slowly at a low temperature.

Its rich proteins tame the tannins in cabernet, making it taste less austere. At the same time, the wine’s tannins make the dish taste less fatty and  more refreshing.

This marriage doesn’t work when cabernet is paired with mutton, a tougher, gamier meat from older sheep.

The youngest and tenderest lamb of all is milk-fed. In France, they call it agneau de Pauillac, or Pauillac lamb, after the region that’s famous both for this dish and for the wines that best accompany it.

Three of the four Médoc first-growth clarets are produced there. With this mildest and palest of red meats, try a lighter red wine, such as Beaujolais-Villages.

Here are more tips on Easter Wines.

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