The perfect wine pairings with Moroccan Spiced Lamb





An indulgence apt for Easter, but one that’s so good we’d urge you to give this a go beforehand…

With lambing season imminent, this seasonal recipe for Moroccan spiced rack of lamb is just what’s needed to jazz up the wet, wintery weather and banish those late January Blues. Welcome spring with open arms with Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for a fresh, green bean salad: the perfect side to accompany a juicy, citrusy lamb. Pair it with a delicious wine, and you’re in for a treat…the only question is, which wine should you choose…?

Food and wine pairing is often seen as a baffling and complicated process but it needn’t be. Not only are we on hand to assist you, but the rules are fluid and we would always advocate experimentation in order to unearth the perfect wine to compliment your meal.

Here are a couple of handy tips from some world renowned wine experts before we dive in with our own suggestions… 
 
 
"Lamb is one of the most wine-friendly of meats, as at home with red Bordeaux and Rioja as it is with the more fruit driven varietals from the new world.”
Fiona Beckett


“If one rule needs obeying, it is this: lamb must, just must, be paired with red wine”
Susy Atkins
 
Four great wine matches

A bewitching Bordeaux

As food and wine pairing expert Fiona Beckett has pointed out, fruit driven varietals like Cabernet-Merlot blends or the Gamay grape, which is most famous for producing the light, fruit-driven red wines of Beaujolais are an ideal match with lamb. The Château Faizeau Vieilles Vignes, a delicious Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend from the Right-Bank of Bordeaux works every time. This critically-acclaimed red wine from one of the great Bordeaux vintages (2009) was reviewed by the world famous wine critic Robert Parker as “one of the best wines ever from Faizeau”, giving it 90 points. A merlot-dominated Claret blend with mocha and black cherry jam notes on the nose, fleshy and full-bodied the palate, shows an endearing rustic quality with subtle notes of caramel and dried herbs. A steal at the offer price of £17.99 – you cannot go wrong here.
 
 A delicious Rioja
The fragrant flavour and juiciness of lamb compliments the toasty, vanilla flavours of the Tempranillo grape variety, making Rioja the classic choice to combine with this succulent red meat. Don Jacobo’s Rioja Crianza Tinto is a highly-acclaimed red wine from one of our favourite producers. This is an effortlessly fruity, tasty and accessible wine that at £9.99 is a delicious accompaniment with a Moroccan lamb dish. Small amounts of Garnacha and Mazuelo have been added to the Tempranillo notes of strawberries and cream, to produce a full-bodied wine with a lingering finish.
  
"Complex, intense and spicy with developing toast, plums and cherries.
Fresh peppery minerality." Decanter
 
 A scrumptious Sicilian
Our final red wine choice is a £12.99 Sicilian Merlot Cabernet Blend from Costanza di Mineo. This sophisticated and organic blend deliciously illustrates how well these international varietals have adapted to Sicily’s incomparable climate. Characterised by a deep purple red colour, the nose is harmoniously complex with generous and plump ripe red fruit and spicy notes. It has a strong structure with soft, supple, tannins and a lingeringly enchanting finish which makes it a great match for a lightly spiced lamb dish. Situated in the beautifully elevated hillside vineyards of Corleone, where Coppola’s iconic film The Godfather was set, these wines are grown 1000 metres above sea level. Wine maker Nicola Tucci, who also assists in the making of the Gold medal winning Cien y Pico ‘Doble Pasta’ Tinteria, spoke exclusively to CellarVie Wines:
 
“The Costanza Di Mineo wines were an attempt to reflect, from the grape to the glass, the purest expressions of Sicily with no compromise… Merlot and Cabernet are such international varietals that have found homes all over the world, but in Sicily they are producing such peculiar expressions that are just so unique and very much new assertions of themselves. They are really interesting interpretations.”
 
 The underdog: Riesling
Now for the slightly left field option of a white wine (sorry Susy Atkins) and one that has divided opinion both in the office and outside. Although red wine is the conventional and more reliable option for lamb, what is life without a little experimentation?! A dry Riesling like Paul & Philippe Zinck’s Portrait Range Alsace may be the underdog here but the acidity in the wine will cleanse the palate and cut through the sweetness of the spices and the pomegranates. At £13.49, this Alsatian is a dry white wine that’s full of flavour and complexity. Lemony with mineral notes, this is a full-bodied Riesling that will be equally delicious on its own as with this citrusy meal.
We previously debunked various myths about Riesling with Stuart Pigott, who writes:  “In a wine world dominated by smoke and mirrors, where standardisation of flavour is the norm, Riesling remains strikingly and deliciously original”.
 
In the latest issue of Under the Skin, Becca Goodall, who is the wine buyer for Hawksmoor believes lamb is far more malleable than many suggest. She told CellarVie Wines:
 
“Lamb is as much of a joy to match with wine as it is to eat, you really
can’t mess up with this versatile meat.”
 
As intimated by Becca, there are no hard and fast rules to wine and food matching so go with your gut and see what happens. It’s the best way to learn what works for you!
 
The roast rack of lamb with Moroccan spices recipe is adapted from a BBC Good Food recipe which is available here. I omitted the yoghurt and carrots, added some pomegranate seeds to the couscous, marinated the lamb in the spices for 3-4 hours before putting it in the oven and served it with Otollenghi’s French beans and mangetout with hazelnut and orange salad (recipe below). The result is a deliciously tender spiced lamb on top of some delightfully simple couscous and a beautiful side salad. The citrus flavours in the lamb compliment the similar flavour profile in Ottolenghi’s green salad. It is an ideal, indulgent but healthy recipe that would be a great alternative to a Sunday Roast as the weather thaws and Easter encroaches.
 

French beans and mangetout with hazelnut and orange
Serves two
 
200g French beans
200g mangetout
35g unskinned hazelnuts
½ orange
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp hazelnut oil (or another nut oil, if unavailable)
coarse sea salt and black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C/Gas Mark 4. Using a small, sharp knife, trim the stalk ends off the French beans and the mangetout, keeping the two separate. Bring plenty of unsalted water to the boil in a large saucepan – you need lots of space of the beans as this is crucial for preserving their colour. Blanch the French beans in the water for 4 minutes, then drain into a colander and run them under plenty of tap water until cold. Leave to drain and dry. Repeat with the mangetout, but blanch only for 1 minute.
  2. While the beans are cooking, scatter the hazelnuts over a baking tray and roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Leave until cool enough to handle, then rub them in a clean tea towel to get rid of most of the skin. Chop the nuts with a large, sharp knife. They should be quite rough; some can even stay whole.
  3. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange in strips, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith. Slice each piece of zest into very thin strips (if you have a citrus zester, you could do the whole job with that).
  4. To assemble the dish, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, toss gently, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve at room temperature.
Tip: the beans can be cooked and chilled a day in advance and then dressed before serving. Sugarsnaps, green peas and broad beans can substitute any of the other two beans or be added to the salad.
 
Recipe adapted from The Ottlenghi Cookbook, p 36, published by Ebury Press

For ideas on which wines to pair a classic roast lamb have a look at this blog post.

Follow us on twitter (@CellarVieWines) for regular food and wine updates, as well as many other wine-related advice, musings and news.
 
 

Written by: Lucy Prosser

Lucy Prosser 

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