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Dec 9, 2006 03:21 AM

help me pair a wine with lamb ragu

We're making a slow cooked lamb ragu. Aside from the lamb,the recipe includes some tomato paste, beef stock, mushrooms, sage, garlic, orange zest, balsamic vinegar, onion and red pepper flakes. It is served over rigatoni.

We have a 1999 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Salcheto) and a 2001 Barolo (Paolo Scavino). We also have several Argentine Malbecs and a variety of Calif. Zins and Cab Francs. Obviously I'm leaning toward the Italian bottles. We need to put some in the crock pot, so we will probably need to open 2 bottles for dinner. What would be your choice?


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  1. Definitely the Montepulciano, which should be in a nice place now. The Barolo is too young; wait ten more years and serve it with something subtler, gamier and/or truffled.

    5 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      Thanks, that's what I was leaning towards. 10 years on the Barolo! Yikes... don't know if we can wait that long! Here's another question. We have to use a cup of wine in the recipe. I will have to open it in the morning to make the ragu. I know it needs to open for a couple of hours, but is all day too much? Should I open some other red wine for the recipe and save the Montepulciano for dinner?

      Also, we will probably need a second bottle of wine with dinner. Any suggestions? I prefer not to have to go out and buy anything. What do you think of a malbec?

      1. re: abqdeb

        There are all kinds of Malbecs. Assuming it's not one of the new-style fruit-and-oak bombs or a high-end cuvée, I'd be inclined to use it in the stew and save the Montepulciano for the table. Whichever wine you open, immediately transfer the remainder to a 500 ml (2-cup) bottle, recork it and stick it in the fridge; it should hold pretty well until dinner.

        The flavour profiles of well-made (i.e. not overripe, overextracted and overoaked) Malbecs and Zins are compatible with lamb, though the Italian flavours of your dish would always incline me toward an Italian wine.

        1. re: abqdeb

          Use some other wine for the ragu, any decent dry red, nothing expensive. It's a waste of good wine to cook with something that costs more than $8 (or maybe $15 if you don't shop around for good values).

        2. re: carswell

          Many later generations Barolos have a peculiar curve: they are fantastic for a couple years after release, then close up. Once they closed, then definitely it's a long wait. A 2001 has just been released, now it's probably the right time before the long wait.

          1. re: RicRios

            You're right that the modernists -- and Scavino is one -- make lush wines that can be appreciated young, provided you're not allergic to French oak in Italian wines and provided you're not looking for the expansive aromatics, the tar and roses, that make Barolo unique, make it worth paying through the nose for. Personally, I think drinking them young is a waste. YMMV, of course.

            In any case, the Montepulciano will make a better match for lamb stew in general and this lamb stew in particular.

            Data point: at a tasting on Thursday, the 2001 Pio Cesare -- a producer with a foot in both the modernist and traditionalist camps -- was delicious for half an hour, then completely rebarbatative.

        3. 3 red wine varietals standout for this dish, IMO: Cabernet, Rioja, and Zinfandel.

          As I look at your ingredients list Rioja and Zinfandel do particularly well with sage and garlic and zinfandel reflects onion especially well.

          At the end of the day I'd go with a Zinfandel for this dish. Also, go easy on the vinegar as it's not particularly wine-friendly.

          If you choose cabernet, increase the mushroom content also.

          To further "bring the food to the wine", you might add shavings of parmesan reggiano if serving Zinfandel or Cabernet (or throw a chunk of P.R. rind into the stew while cooking), ....or Pecorino Stagianato if serving a Rioja.

          As an interesting experiment, do a "red and white".... depending on how heavy you are on the herbs, try a Sauvignon Blanc with this dish also. It matches the tomato, sage, onion, and red pepper especially well. You could serve a side dish of grilled veggies that would be a nice accompaniment to the SBlanc and you might find it's an interesting match with the ragout also!

          1. not on the list but a relatively young chateauneuf du pape should work.

            1. My husband just had a Rosenblum Zinfandel with a lamb dish last night and it was outstanding. Came back and checked in our wine "bible" and the primary recommendation was a Zin, so, it looks like we were spot on.

              1. Thanks all. This has been very interesting. Just to let you know... we went with the Montepulciano and all agreed that it was a terrific match for the food. We actually used some leftover wine from an already opened bottle (I think it was Rosemount GSM) for the stew. We opened the Montepulciano about 2 hours before dinner and then decanted it (and used a filter to pour it... it was loaded with sediment) right before serving.

                Back to the Barolo though, Carswell... in your opinion, what would be the perfect food match for that bottle, assuming we don't want to wait for 10 years. I'm thinking of cooking a meal based on the wine next time, instead of trying to match the wine to the dinner.

                In case anyone is interested, we started with a smoked salmon appetizer on crispy wontons with a wasabi, ginger sauce and paired it with a bottle of Thousand Flowers (Meeker) and that was yummy. I made a salad with greens, pears, toasted pine nuts and pecorino and that actually worked well with the Thousaand Flowers too. We definitely need to go back to Sonoma to get more.

                Thanks again. It was a fun evening and I appreciate the help.


                1 Reply
                1. re: abqdeb

                  Perfect match for Barolo?

                  Try grilled venison or t-bone steak with a natural gravy infused with parmesan & truffle.


                  FWIW, a few years ago we had a "steakhouse showdown" of 5 red varietals with prime grilled steaks. The winner by a nose: Barolo.