Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Wine Wednesday: The Perfect Wines to Match Roast Lamb

Photo: The Culinary Geek
A little over two years ago, our very first post on Vinspire centred on brilliant wines for Easter.

Naturally, this included a couple of wines to match roast lamb, but the reality is there are loads more bottles that would be just delicious alongside some juicy, pink, roast lamb on Easter Sunday (or indeed any day of the week!)

How to choose your wine match for roast lamb

Of course, it's not just the lamb you've got to consider - it all depends on how you want to cook it:

  • What herbaceous, fragrant ingredients you plan to chuck in with it? Think rosemary, thyme, garlic, balsamic vinegar, fennel)
  • Are you stuffing it with something tasty? Like apricots, chard, spinach or juniper? 
  • Are you serving it with a sauce? Mint sauce, redcurrant jelly, or creamy onion sauce are the obvious favourites.

You could scratch your head for hours worrying about it, but my basic advice is to pick a wine you like and try to make sure it matches at least the most prominent flavours.

Classic matches for roast lamb

When it comes to tried and tested roast lamb wine pairings, it's all about Rioja, red Bordeaux (generally from the left bank such as Haut-Medoc or Saint-Estephe), or "a nice Chianti" (as Hannibal Lecter would say).

Other wine matches for roast lamb: southern French reds (particularly syrah), pinot noir, Beaujolais and syrah-based Rhone wines.

How to find cheaper versions of these classic lamb wine pairings (for specific examples, see below!)

1. Rioja = Tempranillo

Red wines from Rioja are made using predominantly the tempranillo grape variety. This grape is having a bit of a 'moment' on the UK wine market at the moment, because people are realising that extremely tasty tempranillo wines are being made all over Spain - and now also in countries like Chile and Australia - at a fraction of the cost of a Rioja.

Pretty much every wine shop and supermarket will have oodles of examples of value for money tempranillos. Hooray for Easter wine bargains!

2. Red Bordeaux = Cabernet-Merlot Blends 

Left-bank Bordeaux red wines (like Haut-Medoc) are almost always made with a majority of the cabernet sauvignon grape, plus merlot (and - if you want to get a bit geeky - often varying amounts of other grapes like cabernet franc, petit verdot and even malbec).

Although there's nothing quite like a Bordeaux, you could very well substitute this for a less expensive (but still good!) cabernet-merlot blend from a New World country like Australia, South Africa, Chile or Argentina.

3. Chianti = Sangiovese

Red wines from Chianti (made in Italy's Tuscany region) are made using the sangiovese grape. Like Bordeaux, there's nothing quite like a Chianti (it earns its price tag for a reason), but you will find less expensive examples of Italian sangiovese which you could use if you're on a budget.

My Wine Picks for Spring Lamb

I know times are tough and we haven't all got oodles of cash to splash about so I've made sure I offer suggestions at all price points:

Under £7

Waitrose Good Ordinary Claret, £5.19 at Waitrose
Does exactly what it says on the bottle. Supple and claret-y, this really is good value.

Mayu Sangiovese, £5.47, ASDA
A sangiovese from Chile is a weird find, and this is an easy-drinking, uncomplicated red which will be a good match for lamb with redcurrant jelly.

Reales Vinedos Vendimia Seleccionada 2008 Castilla, currently £5.99 (normally £7.99) at Majestic
A little bit of a cheeky bargain for under £6, with more than a hint of a young Rioja about it. A fresh, fruity red showing what tempranillo can do on a budget.
If you'd prefer the real thing, Majestic are also selling Vina Eguia's Rioja Reserva 2010 for £6.66 per bottle as part of their big mix and match discount. Toasty, dark, more complex than you might imagine - now THAT is a bargain.

Exquisite Collection Fleurie, £6.49 at Aldi
Soft, perfumed and a good all-rounder with food, this is a very decent example of a Fleurie for the price.

Under £10

Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel, currently £7.99 (usually £9.99) at Tesco
A firm favourite in my household, this has all the boldness and redcurrant fruitiness to make lamb sing. A genuinely good discount, too.

Minervois 'Racine', Bruno Lafon and Francois Chamboisier, £8.99 at Adnams
Made by an expert pair of winemakers (from Burgundy and Bordeaux respectively), this is a big, rich, herby red with a lovely wild character. Great for herb-crusted lamb.

Chateau de Sainte Gemme 2008, Haut-Medoc, currently £9.99 (usually £14.99) at Majestic
I'm not sure I'd pay nearly £15 for this (Majestic are funny with their pricing sometimes) but this is a fantastic example of a cabernet-merlot blend from Bordeaux, and a good name to spend your money on. Peppery, red fruit character and lots of length and complexity.

£10 and up

Wirra Wirra Church Block, currently £10.11 (usually £13.49) at Ocado
I do love a bit of Aussie Wirra Wirra, and this cabernet-merlot-shiraz blend is exactly what they're best at. A delicious, moreish, berry-rich treat for your leg of lamb.

Rockus Bockus, £13 at Marks and Spencer
Hailing from California, this is a vibrant, heady mix of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and tempranillo. Spicy, full and inviting - it also has one of the best labels I've seen in ages (shouldn't matter, but does...)

Chateau Fourcas-Dumont 2005, Listrac-Medoc, £16 at The Wine Society
If you want a real banger of a treat for Easter Sunday, this wonderful, 10-year-old claret from one of the best vintages of the decade is a sure-fire hit. And, as ever, The Wine Society has it at an astonishing price.

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