The Best Wine Pairings for Lamb: CellarVie vs The Experts

A dish as wonderfully tender as lamb is hugely popular in spring and a common choice for a Sunday lunch, especially over the long Easter weekend. One of the most flexible of meats when it comes to wine pairing, it is normally the accompanying sauces that dictate the wine choice rather the meat itself. For a traditional roast lamb, however, it is the deliciously tender meat that plays centre stage at the table. Lamb’s modest flavour and supple juiciness lends itself very nicely to a smooth, low-tannin style of wine.
Many a Friday afternoon in our office in Twickenham is spent tasting wines under the convincing excuse of “Friday Fine Wine” and having recently attended a supplier tasting, we are all afforded ample opportunity to revisit our existing range. Wanting to take advantage of this, I have asked the CellarVie Wines team to pick one wine that they would choose to enjoy alongside their Roast Lamb. Not wanting to seem preferential towards our own lofty opinions, I have roped in some expert help from a few people in the know too.
When it comes to food and wine pairings, people are quite often intimidated by the ‘rules’ behind a good wine and food pairing. I like to think of them more as mere guidelines: there is no right or wrong answer and your palate can differ significantly from the next person. People have varying degrees of sensitivity to different flavours and aromas and so each personal preference could, inevitably, be different. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
The subsequent team selections were very interesting. Some completely ignored my suggestion of a single wine choice (Simon and Jon) and others (Christopher) used their extensive knowledge in the kitchen (fun fact: he knows his stuff, he used to work as a chef at The Savoy) as well as his forty years of experience in the wine trade to come up with not only a wine but a recipe too. Each member of the team chose something different and all are very tempting…

The CellarVie Wines Team
Simon’s pick: Château Lamothe-Cissac Vieilles Vignes Cru Bourgeois Haut-Médoc 2006
Simon: “Simple, classic roast lamb and red Bordeaux. It is one of the all-time great food and wine matches. Just stud the leg of lamb with sliced garlic and rosemary sprigs and pop it in the oven. I tend to open the bottle up before I start cooking and whenever possible decant it. All levels of Bordeaux will benefit to some degree from a little exposure to the air and, if nothing else, it adds a degree of ceremony to this traditional food and wine pairing. The softer merlot dominated Château de Camarsac and Château Lyonnat would probably be your best options to drink as you are preparing the lamb (the first glass should always be drunk whilst cooking). Neither will need as long in the decanter to soften and open up. Alternatively, Château de Breuil does have a wonderful freshness which will complement the food match but I'm looking for something a better more special. I'm a big fan of the Château Lamothe-Cissac, a real bargain in Bordeaux and, whenever I can, I trade up to their Vieilles Vignes. It's only made during the best years and having tried the 2006 again over Christmas I can tell you it is drinking perfectly right now. Give it an hour or two in the decanter and you're in left-bank heaven: a perfect place to be with a plate of roast lamb in front of you!”


"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,

Ben's pick: Pablo Old Vine Garnacha 2013
Ben: “We were fortunate enough to try this again at a recent trade tasting and in my humble opinion it remains one of the best-value offerings on our list. Made from gnarly, 100-year-old vines, in arid mountainous vineyards in the Province of Zaragoza, this lavishly fruity and dangerously drinkable red is a match made in red meat heaven. The original artwork for the Pablo Picasso-inspired wine label was created by James Fleming of Gigantic Design, and it’s beautifully evocative of the sun-baked vineyards of Spain. Perpetually lionised by wine critics (on the 21st February of this year, Matthew Jukes wrote in The Daily Mail: “The colour is rich, the nose pungent and detailed and the finish is long and lusty. A noble red fit for a king!”) for me this wine manages to marry a youthful fruitiness with great depth of flavour. Lashings of blackberry and cherry flavours characterise the lively palate which is balanced by an underlying spicy pepperiness, this is crowd-pleasing and perfect for your succulent roast leg of lamb (not cooked by me!).”
Christopher's pick: Costanza di Mineo San Luca Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2012
Christopher:"Recipe for Roast Lamb with herb crust (Cosciotto in Crosta    D’Erbe):-
Ingredients: – 2 tablespoons of each of - Thyme, Oregano, Flat-leaf parsley (chopped), Rosemary needles and Breadcrumbs, 4 tablespoons of Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper plus    a leg of lamb (2kg or 4.5 lbs)
Cooking:- Pre-heat oven to 240C or 475F. Mix together all the herbs in a bowl and add the breadcrumbs and Olive Oil plus seasoning. Place lamb in roasting tin and spread herb mixture over meat and roast for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 180C or 350F and having added 150ml of warm water around the meat (not over it) return to oven. Cook for another 15 – 25 minutes (depends how pink you want it) after which remove and wrap in foil and leave to stand for at least 10 minutes.
Then carve and serve with roast rosemary potatoes and caponata.
The Wine
Costanza di Mineo San Luca Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2012 is a truly outstanding wine of quality and value! Made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines grown at 850 – 1,000 metres above sea level, next to the town of Corleone in Sicily. Rich purple colour, generous ripe fruit and spicy delivering soft and subtle tannins. Simply delicious with lamb…you must be tempted!”
Jon's pick: Élevé Carignan Vieilles Vignes and Oakridge’s Over the Shoulder Cabernet Merlot
Jon: “Lamb is our household's favourite meat and, for special occasions, we will get out the homemade spit (even when it rains!!), as modelled in the photo by Lambros, my father-in-law. Whilst many will pair Lamb with a red Bordeaux or Rioja (nothing wrong with either; they are both perfectly suited to Lamb) I would go for something a little different and, depending on how my finances are, I would choose either an easy-drinking red below £10, or a critically acclaimed Aussie red at £15.99.
The first wine is the Élevé Carignan Vieilles Vignes. Carignan is indigenous to the Languedoc, where the Élevé vineyard is located. How old are the ‘Vieilles Vignes’ or ‘Old Vines’ you may ask? Over 40 years old! The wine itself is easy drinking, packed with fruit and it offers a touch of richness that suits the sweetness of Lamb. It is a really approachable wine and at £9.99, stunning value for money!
The second wine is Oakridge's Over the Shoulder Cabernet Merlot. Spearheaded by one of Australia’s finest winemakers, the Brit, David Bicknell, the Oakridge winery was recently awarded a 5-star rating by James Halliday for the seventh year running (no mean feat!) and whilst he is internationally known for his Chardonnays (he was trained at Louis Latour amongst other places) his Cab-Merlot is stunning too! It is definitely worth the money: 55% Cab and 45% Merlot, it is velvety, full-bodied and packed full of red and blackcurrant fruit (perfect for Lamb) as well as plum flavours and a hint of spice too”.

“There’s something magical about the sweet juiciness of lamb matched with a rocking Rioja”
Olly Smith,
Lucy's pick: Flor de Campo Pinot Noir 2011
Lucy: “As an avid Pinot Noir fan, I was lucky enough to taste the Flor de Campo Pinot Noir at a Christmas tasting and, in my honest opinion, it is delicious: a beautifully accessible Pinot from Santa Barbara County, it is a cherry and berry scented wine which shows a touch of savoury-spice on the richly flavoured, bright fruit palate. This excellently crafted wine has won plenty of acclaim, with the 2010 vintage earning a whopping 17 points from Jancis Robinson. With a strong-flavoured, garlic and rosemary infused leg of lamb, I would warn against something as light as a Pinot Noir (and I would encourage you more towards Simon’s Bordelais suggestions) but for a simple roast of young, juicy and sweet spring lamb, let both the meat and the wine sing with a lighter, fruit-led red like a Pinot Noir. An exclusive parcel means that we have a limited amount of stock at an extremely good price (this wine is a steal at £14.99 down from £18.99). The office are snapping up this stunning wine and I urge you to do the same: when it’s gone it is gone (if I have anything to do with it, the stock won’t last long…)”.
The Experts
For autumn’s edition of the Under the Skin magazine, we spoke exclusively to a few carefully selected experts to bring some insight into the ceremonial Sunday Lunch Roast Lamb and its long debated wine match potential, and I’ve chosen a couple here for your own perusal…
Andrea Briccarello is Head Sommelier for the Galvin Group, which includes the award-winning Galvin La Chapelle. The Spitalfields based restaurant was one of four eateries highlighted at the Observer Food Monthly Awards for serving the best Sunday lunch in London.
Andrea told us, “With the tasty juicy lamb I would go rustic and tannic; the south of France is the perfect place for this kind of wine. From the rich Tannat grape of the Madiran (Chateau Montus) or the deep inky Malbec of Cahors (Chateau du Cedre), those wines are a perfect combination with a roast leg of lamb.”
Becca Goodall is the wine buyer for Hawksmoor, which was listed in Esquire Magazine’s Best Restaurants for Sunday Roast. It was also cited as one of London’s best Sunday Roasts by the Observer Food Monthly Awards.
Becca: “Lamb is as much of a joy to match with wine as it is to eat, you really can’t mess up this versatile meat. Roasted leg of lamb works wonderfully with herbaceous wines to stand up to the flavours of the sweet sticky roasted garlic and pungent rosemary. The generous fruit and savoury layers of New World Pinot Noir have the complexity to stand up to herby lamb. New Zealand is producing some great examples with naturally high acidity to balance the fattiness of the meat. When serving a white wine with lamb I would opt for a weighty Southern French Viognier based blend. Other grapes in the blend such as Granache Blanc, Macabeu and Roussane make for a complex wine often with herbal qualities to bring out the aromatic rosemary in the lamb.”
For more expert opinion, here is the entire article 
 Main blog image by N HU
 * All wine prices are according to the website pricing on 24.03.2015 and are subject to change

Written by: Lucy Prosser

Lucy Prosser 


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