Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spring for Lamb - Wine Pairing

Wine Pairing Flavors:
Rack of lamb, salted, peppered and seared, then covered in a softened herb butter of lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley and chives, before being slowly oven roasted until juicy and rare.

Want the recipe?
Here’s a link back to the Chive Lemon Rack of Lamb

Want the beer pair?
Check in next Thursday for my beer pairing post.



Merlot.  Are you for or against? 

Some people just scowl at the name, while others have never met a Merlot they didn't like.  And although the scowlers may be card-carrying members of the ABM (or Anything But Merlot crowd), like the main character in the popular Santa Barbara wine country film, "Sideways," they never would've gotten away with any of that in Bordeaux.  Not for one second.

And in Pomerol?  Well, if they’d made the mistake of dropping in on Pomerol with that scowl, I just wouldn't want to think about what could have happened.  For in Pomerol, if they ever had a slogan, it probably would be – Everything with Merlot.

Baffled yet?  Well, if you are, it's time for a little unbaffling, so let's begin by backtracking back to  Bordeaux.  It's probably the most famous wine region in France after Burgundy, but although both begin with a "B," any similarity ends there.

For those in the know, Bordeaux is a well-known name that hides a lesser known fact, for it's a name that tells you exactly where it is.  Meaning ‘next to the waters’ in French, there's no mistaking how water and the region's proximity to it, drives Bordeaux's most every move.

Located in the southwest of France, Bordeaux is a region stretching 80 miles inland from the Atlantic Coast. And it's this proximity to the ocean and the the various rivers that run through it, that help to moderate the climate, with gentle breezes and clouds able to take the edge off even the hottest of French summer days.

But Bordeaux isn't only about the weather, it's also all about blends.  For while Burgundy celebrates the flavor of place through one grape (Chardonnay for its whites and Pinot Noir for its reds), Bordeaux is blending country where the famous Red Bordeaux Blends are the name of the game.

As carrots, celery and onions are cooked together to form a flavor base in cuisine, Bordeaux's flavor base trinity is Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  And it’s how these grapes are blended and in what percentages that define each Bordeaux region’s recipe for winemaking success.

So, in the very broadest of strokes, those recipes are as follows:

Left bank wines (those that lie along the left or western banks of the Garonne and Gironde Rivers) are more Cabernet Sauvignon driven.  With their rocky, gravelly soils, they produce astringent and powerful reds, that although are very age worthy, are, just like people, often harsh in their youth.

While right bank wines, with their sandy, clay soils favor Merlot in their blends, making them softer and rounder and more accessible when young.  Which brings us around, finally, to our lamb pairing partner, which is a softer spoken wine from the right bank of Bordeaux.  And as you might have guessed by now, is full of Merlot.

And since we're speaking of recipes, its cépage (or grape variety blend) is 55% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Merlot in the recipe gives the wine its fruitiness, while the Cabernet Franc adds structure and savory accents of spice.  It's a blend that’s been made famous in the prestigious Pomerol region of Bordeaux, a region that’s bordered on the north by Lalande de Pomerol.

My lamb pairing Lalande de Pomerol is a 2010 vintage from Château Altimar and was suggested to me by owner, Steve Bialek of the Los Angeles Wine Company.  Priced at just under $25, it's a well-balanced, food friendly wine, with aromas and flavors of fresh sage, black pepper and dark red fruits.

The slightly tannic nature of the wine couples well with the gentle gaminess of the rack of lamb, while at the same time, balancing out the buttery citrus that's so present in the dish.  And with each sip, you'll find the juicy lamb cloaked in the wine's cherry and blackberry flavors, with the mouth filling lamb and butter also held in check by the wine’s tannins and supporting acidity.

Lamb and Bordeaux.  With one taste its apparent why it's such a classic pairing combination.  Just like lemon and lamb or limes and margaritas. Or lobsters in butter and potatoes with steak. 

Some combinations are just worth repeating, so if you're new to Bordeaux and lamb, welcome to a new tradition you'll soon want to celebrate.

Now, here's a peek at my beer pair coming up next –

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